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The Australian National University

Mr Dorji Penjore

Position: PhD candidate in Anthropology


Research Interests: Himalayan studies; economic anthropology; Bhutanese folklore; indigenous knowledge systems; kinship and marriages; land tenure; history of Tibetan Buddhism

Thesis title: Harvesting the Half: Sharecropping, Subsistence and Subalternity in Samcholing village in central Bhutan.

My research project will study why sharecropping continues to persist in the subsistence household agriculture in Samcholing village in Trongsa district, Bhutan, when farmers across the country are abandoning even their freehold land and migrating to urban centers in search of alternative livelihoods. In Bhutan it is generally the landless households depend on sharecropping and most sharecroppers of Samcholing are landless. But the paradox is that no one is technically landless in Bhutan, for every household is entitled to land grant from the king. In addition the government continues to resettle thousands of landless households and those with less than five acres in other parts of Bhutan through its resettlement program.
The existing research on sharecropping is frustratingly dominated by economists. My research will place sharecropping at the heart of anthropological inquiry and study why sharecroppers continue to depend on sharecropping when evidence suggest its decrease, if not its demise, in the village as in the rest of Bhutan? Through an anthropological method of participant observation, ethnographic interviews, and household surveys, it will study the history of sharecropping and various factors responsible for creating a large number of sharecroppers in the country. It will study the village’s social structure to understand to what extent sharecropping is ‘embedded’ in the social structure. It will also explore the role of landlords in its persistence. Through a limited household survey, it will collect quantitative information on the variant of sharecropping practiced in Samcholing and explore its contribution to the subsistence household production system. Lastly, the research will explore the problems associated with sharecropping in Samcholing, and place it in context of a rapid socio-economic development that is transforming Samcholing, which in turn is empowering sharecroppers to break from their perpetual dependence on this tenancy, which they consider as unfair.


Dasho Nishioka: A Japanese Who Lived for Bhutan (Thimphu: Dorji Penjore, 2011) (co-author Tshering Cigay Dorji).

Danphu Dingphu: A Collection of Folktales from Rural Bhutan (Thimphu: Dorji Penjore, 2011).

Love, Courtship and Marriage in Rural Bhutan: A Preliminary Ethnography of Wamling Village in Zhemgang (Thimphu: Galing Printers and Publishers, 2009).

Was it a Yeti or a Deity – A Collection of Kheng Folktales (Thimphu: Galing Printers and Publishers, 2005).

Bhutan's National Bibliography (Thimphu: The Centre for Bhutan Studies, 2002).
On the Mule Track to Dagana, Monograph 1 (Thimphu: The Centre for Bhutan Studies, 2003).

The Origin and Description of the National Flag and Anthem of the Kingdom of Bhutan (Thimphu: the Centre for Bhutan Studies, 2002) (co-author Sonam Kinga).

“Rows of Auspicious Seats: The Role of bzhugs gral phun sum tshogs pa’i rten ‘brel Ritual in the Founding of the First Bhutanese State in the 17th Century”, Journal of Bhutan Studies, 24 (Summer 2011), 1-42.

“Dangphu … Dingphu … The origins of the Bhutanese Folktales”, In Proceedings of the Sixth Colloquium on Tangible and Intangible Culture (‘brug gi dngos med lam srol), edited by Ariana Maki (Paro, Bhutan: National Museum of Bhutan, 2011); Also published in Journal of Bhutan Studies, 21 (Winter 2009), 7-42.

“Bomena, a Misunderstood Culture: Contextualizing a Traditional Courtship Custom Practiced in the Villages of Bhutan”, Journal of ASAFAS, 10: 1 (2010), 1-12.

“Oral Tradition as Alternative Literature: Voices of Dissent in Bhutanese Folktales”, In SSS – Storytelling, Self, Society – An Interdisciplinary Journal of Storytelling Studies, 6: 1 (January – April 2010), 77-87. Also published in Journal of Bhutan Studies, 20 (Summer 2009), 7-45.

“Swimming in the Tide of Globalization: Bhutan as seen Through the Lives of Bhutanese in Thimphu”, In Human Beliefs and Values in Incredible Asia, edited by Takashi Inoguchi (Tokyo: Akashi Shoten, 2008), 39-64.

“Is Environmental Conservation Success a Rural Failure? The Other Side of Bhutan’s Conservation Story”, In Towards Global Transformation (Thimphu: The Centre for Bhutan Studies, 2008), 66-87

“Folktales and Education: The Role of Bhutanese Folktales in Value Transmission”. In Rethinking Development (Thimphu: The Centre for Bhutan Studies, 2007), 258-277. Also published in Journal of Bhutan Studies, 20 (Summer 2009), 21-36.

“Propitiation of Lha Ode Gongjan in Wamling: A Scriptural Analysis”, In Written Treasure of Bhutan: Mirror of the Past and Bride to the Future (Thimphu: National Library of Bhutan, 2008).

“Bhutan”, In The Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Folklore and Folklife, edited by William M. Clements (Westport, Connecticut and London: Greenwood Press, 2006), 105-112

“Trends of Forestry Policy Concerning Local Participation in Bhutan”, Policy Trend Report 2004. (Chiba, Japan: Institute for Global Environmental Strategies), 21-27.

“Oral Construction of Exile Life and Times of Künkhyen Longchen Rabjam in Bumthang”, Journal of Bhutan Studies, 13 (Winter 2005), 60-73.
“Bhutan’s Security: Walking Between the Giants” Journal of Bhutan Studies, 10 (Summer 2004), 108-131.

“Wamling Kharpu – A Vibrant Ancient Festival, In Wayo, Wayo - Voices from the Past (Thimphu: The Centre for Bhutan Studies, 2004), 49-71.

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