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3rd Unit : 2nd Study Group Session

3rd Unit : 2nd Study Group Session

"Bhutan, Making a Nation as a Happy Society: the Process of Making the National Attribution and Demarcating the National Boundary."

The 2nd Study Group Session, the 3rd Unit

On July 4, at Room 5201, Hakusan Campus, Toyo University, Miyamoto Mari, Research Fellow at the Minpaku Contemporary India Area Studies, National Museum of Ethnology, gave a talk titled "Bhutan, Making a Nation as a Happy Society: the Process of Making the National Attribution and Demarcating the National Boundary." Perhaps reflecting the height of interest in Bhutan in recent years, many people from inside and outside the university participated in the session. The outline of the talk is as follows.

The 2nd Study Group Session, the 3rd Unit

Bhutan Kingdom is located at the east end of the Himalaya. This country has attracted attention in recent years as a happy society and an environmental advanced country and is known as the last sovereign nation which designates Tibetan Buddhism as its state religion. How have administrators of this country, who were in charge of the difficult job of steering the country caught between two large countries, China and India, so as to survive as a sovereign nation, built up the current image of Bhutan? As a first step to investigate into this, the speaker paid attention to the process of developing the self-portrait of "Bhutanese nation" through legislations concerning nationality and marriage. To explain this, she divided the process into three periods of time. The first period in developing the national image was from the 1950's to 60's, during which a nationality law was promulgated for the first time to subsume farmers and ranchers settled in the territory almost without distinction. The second period was the 1970's, during which domestic intermarriage was encouraged and the sharing of national language and history was intended to homogenize people through blood and culture. From the 1980's to 1990's, which was the third period, it was attempted to substantiate such an "ideal figure of Bhutanese" and, at the same time, to identify clearly and exclude "others." It turned out to be the period of excluding others : "Nepalese inhabitants" were then forced to become refugees in the early 1990's. This entailed an international criticism of the Bhutanese government. Bhutan, however, started to show its commitment to the protection of the natural environment from this period. The government constructed the image of the Bhutanese who protect and nurture the "nature" on the basis of the Buddhist idea that calls for "pity on all living creatures." They presented this image externally while responding to the global trend of environmentalism at the time and announced to slow down the speed of development. Such a self-representation was widely accepted by Western countries ; the Bhutan's nature reserves kept expanding with diverse support by them. Under a variety of information control and the policy to restrain development, Bhutanese people came to be represented as obedient people with a high sense of happiness who control their desire and "know they have enough." However such a self-portrait of Bhutanese people, of course, does not necessarily represent all citizens. In the latter half of the talk, on the basis of specific instances observed in field work, the speaker described how a variety of attributes and values that constitute the image of "Bhutanese" as a "good Buddhist" who is "environment friendly" and "abstemious" sometimes contradict and conflict with each other. She thus contemplated on the multilayered nature of the portrait of the nation in their everyday life and plurality of the process through which the image is translated.