Mapping historical and contemporary agrarian transformations and capitalist infiltration in a complex upland environment: A case from eastern Nepal

The relationship that mountain communities have with global capitalism are complex, being mediated by a diverse topography and ecology, both of which provide opportunities for capital accumulation, while also isolating older, “pre-capitalist” modes of production. This paper takes a case study valley from Nepal's eastern hills, tracing over two centuries of agrarian change and evolving interactions between “adivasi” and “semi-feudal” economic formations with capitalism. In recent years, the expansion of markets, rising demand for cash, and climate stress have solidified migrant labour as a core component of livelihoods, and the primary mechanism of surplus appropriation from the hill peasantry. Through a focus on three altitudinal zones, however, it is demonstrated how the trajectory of this transformation, including the interactions with persisting pre-capitalist formations, is mediated by both political–economic processes and the local agro-ecological context.