Publish Or Perish

From HIMAL, Volume 1, Issue 2 (NOV/DEC 1988)

John K. Locke, who edits Kailash in Kathmandu, says his main problem has always been with the printers. After a local press took seven months to publish one issue, he tried printing in Varanasi, then back again in Kathmandu, and is now planning to typeset in Kathmandu and print in Delhi.

Kailash bills itself as a journal of Himalayan studies, but so far has concentrated on Nepal. “We do want to cover the whole region, and all areas of academic discipline, from botany to history and anthropology,” says Locke. Most of Kailash’s contributors are also Western academics who have to “publish or perish”. Such imperatives do not seem to drive Nepali scholars nearly as much.

Unlike the Kathmandu journals, those in India do attract a fair number of local talent. Indian scholars contribute to publications such as the Journal of Himalayan Studies and Regional Development, published by Garhwal University in Srinagar, which emphasizes study of the hill economy, the environment and development issues. Himalayan Research and Development, now in its seventh year, in a bi-annual interdisciplinary journal that is the mouthpiece of the Himalayan Research Group in Naini Tal.

Looking at the region from abroad is Mountain Research and Development, from the University of Colorado. It is a technical journal that emphasizes the hard sciences such as mapping, climatology and geology and deals with mountains regions worldwide, but in doing so covers the Himalaya thoroughly. The South Asian Institute at Columbia University in New York publishes the Himalayan Research Bulletin. Bruce Owens, a coeditor of the journal, says it serves as a bulletin for researchers on the Himalaya. He says the goal is broaden its reach by publishing theme oriented issues.

Emotional Attachment

Pahar, a Hindi annual Published by the People’s Association for Himalaya Area Research in Naini Tal, is decidedly grassroots in its orientation. “Publishing a journal in the vernacular is very difficult, but essential for people’s awareness,” says its editor Shekhar Pathak, adding, “Mere publication is not enough. We always interrelate study, publication and action. Ours is a very collective kind of work. Pahar is made possible by the curiosity, hard work and research of people who love the Himalaya.”

Unfortunately, sheer emotional drive is usually not enough to maintain a magazine in the undeveloped media market. Many periodicals have bitten the Himalayan dust in the past decade, the only indication of their passing to be found in yellowing cards in library catalogues. Thus it was that Himalayan Culture expired after only a promising first issue. A consistently high-quality journal on Himalayan plants, from Kalimpong, similarly seems to have given up.

Despite the failures, however, many continue to struggle and survive, providing space for debate and provocative writing. In the latest Kailash, Dutch geographer Wim van Spengen tells everything anyone would want to know about the Manang-Bhot region of central Nepal. The Himalayan Research Bulletin has lately carried an illuminating give-and-take on Tibet. And the latest issue of Contributions has an article that questions the Rajput lineage claimed by Jung Bahadur. It argues that this doyen of the Rana clan in Nepal was a Khadka. A Chhetri, that is, but not a Thakuri.

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