An indigenous crop, cannabis and its parts have traditionally been used in some regions of the Indian Himalayas for food, clothing, and enjoyment in the form of a socially consumed intoxicant. Cannabis has become engendered in social transformations and has been historically subsumed within the socio-cultural life of the region, where it has been a “humble” object (Miller 2009) of great utility, but hardly influential. However, in the last couple of decades, cannabis has been important in transforming the local economy, challenging the socio-cultural order, and influencing individual life trajectories in parts of the Indian Himalayas. This paper illustrates how cannabis becomes a “transgressive” object, one that is possessed of a force that shapes human life (for better and worse), and challenges and transforms social institutions and practices in the region. The sociocultural, historical, and material aspects of cannabis play significant roles in such a transformation. While illustrating how the history of colonization and global circulation of cannabis is inscribed with contradictory meanings, the paper suggests that much (although not all) of cannabis's present power in the Indian Himalayas can be attributed to historical and present interpretations in the global West. The paper examines the engagement between local community and cannabis, and explores how this engagement ushers in social change in the Indian Himalayas.
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Vol. 38 • No. 4