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  • Centre d'Etudes Himalayennes
    UPR 299 - CNRS
  • Campus Condorcet
  • 2, cours des Humanités
  • 93322 Aubervilliers Cedex
  • France
  • Tel : 01 88 12 11 03
  • himalaya[at]
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About CEH

The Centre for Himalayan Studies (CEH), formerly known as Milieux, Sociétés et Cultures en Himalaya, is a CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique : National Center for Scientific Research) intramural research unit, UPR 299, which gathers together some thirty researchers and graduate students.

This research unit had a multidisciplinary vocation from the very start. In 1964 Corneille Jest, a social anthropologist and a specialist of Nepal, launched the idea of organising collective research in Nepal. This idea took shape in 1965 in the form of a RCP (Recherche Coopérative sur programme : Cooperative Research on Programme), RCP 65 "Study of Nepalese regions", in which C. Jest acted as team leader reporting to the director of the Musée de l’Homme, Jacques Millot. In 1970 RCP 253, "Écologie et Géologie de l’Himalaya Central" (Ecology and Geology of the Central Himalayas), took over from this. A frog species, "Ercepe" [1] (Nanorana ercepeae), which was found in the middle mountains of western Nepal by members of the team is dedicated to this unit. In 1975 another discipline—agronomy—joined anthropology, biology, geography, ecology and geology with the creation of the Himalaya-Karakorum Research Group (GRECO) which offered a remarkable plurality of approaches where life sciences, earth sciences and human sciences echoed each other over an area of study that extended to the whole of the Himalayas. It was supplanted by UPR 299 in 1990. Headed by Gérard Toffin until 1994, then by Fernand Meyer (1995-2004) and Joëlle Smadja (2005-2012), from 2013 to 2016 it was run by a management team made up of Philippe Ramirez, Olivia Aubriot and Pascale Dollfus. Since 2016 Philippe Ramirez has assumed the directorship alongside Bernadette Sellers. And since January 2019 the team is made up of Nicolas Sihlé and Bernadette Sellers.

Today, while ethnology, geography and agronomy remain the team’s key disciplines, biology and geology have given way to history, history of art, philology and linguistics. The main sites where fieldwork is carried out are in Nepal, India (Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh), and in the People’s Republic of China (Tibet Autonomous Region, Yunnan, Sichuan and Qinghai).

The wealth of the Himalayan area stems from its location between tropical foothills and arid, cold zones at very high altitude, which offers a mosaic of diverse yet complementary ecological environments but also to its position as a crossroads between Indian and Chinese worlds and to the great linguistic and cultural diversity of the populations who live there.

The Himalayas are indeed a privileged laboratory for observing in the field paradigmatic situations that are conducive to fuelling more general reflections on, among other things, the relationship between religion and politics, the processes of disseminating ideas and techniques, the dialectics between centres of power and their margins, identity movements, migratory processes, the management and conservation of natural resources, and "development" patterns and policies. Several collective programmes thereby focus on notions of territory, on environmental issues and on recent changes, whether of a political, religious or climatic nature.

Since the early 1960s, thanks to a policy of procuring and systematically collecting documents in the field, a unique collection of multidisciplinary holdings has been set up : CEH’s library. It includes many locally published books of which only this library have a copy. An integral part of UPR 299 with its 35,000 references, it is the largest collection of Himalayan documents in the world.


UPR299 Centre d’études himalayennes, CNRS
Campus Condorcet
Bâtiment EHESS
2, cours des Humanités
93322 Aubervilliers

Email :

[1"Ercepe" is phonetic for "RCP".