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Visualizing Central Asia: "A Chef's Story" (Nivedita Nath)

Nivedita Nath is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at UCLA. Her dissertation is entitled Race, Caste, and Modern Imaginaries of the Himalayas. She has taught in government schools in Tehri Garhwal, where this documentary was filmed.

The film shares some of Nivedita’s experiences during fieldwork in the Central Himalayas, focusing specifically on themes of environmental justice, caste, and outmigration in Tehri Garhwal. The subject is the lore and politics of the rural festival of Kailas Dev Pir. The festival foregrounds contradictions between a harvest festival unfolding on increasingly abandoned fields, and an out-migrating rural population increasingly drawn by transnational demands for an under-compensated workforce of waiters and cooks. Interviews with a cross section of villagers revealed fissures of caste and gender that structure out-migration from the mountains. In this fractured landscape, how does an annual harvest festival unfold? What cultural practices cohere a scattered village, and what practices only serve to re-entrench social barriers?

About “Visualizing Central Asia”

During the summer of 2020, the UCLA Program on Central Asia invited students to create short videos about the Central Asian region. These projects explore the students’ connections with the area, drawing on relevant courses, study abroad, research, and/or issues of personal concern. The videos cover a range of topics including politics, society, language, food, architecture, and gender. Together, they offer a portrait of Central Asia from a variety of perspectives, contributing to our understanding of a region that is often overlooked.