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Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit



Riam is a post-doctoral researcher on the project Himalayan Connections: Melting glaciers, sacred landscapes and mobile technologies in a changing climate, a collaborative project with the University of Oslo funded by the Norwegian Research Council under its NORGLOBAL programme. The project explores complexities of environmental perception and decision-making at a pivotal moment of change in high-altitude communities in the Himalaya. Through long-term fieldwork the project will document community historical mechanisms for environmental management and examine them in light of the arrival of new communication technologies and new knowledges and framing discourses around climate change and sustainable development.

Riam’s doctoral research in human geography (2015) examined the relationship between Buddhist beliefs and practices and environmental conservation in Bhutan, addressing theorisations in cultural landscapes, political ecology and Buddhist modernities. She is interested in the human engagement with nature, with particular attention to non-Western perspectives and the ways in which conservation landscapes and environmental imaginaries are culturally inflected.

Riam conducts fieldwork in Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand and engages in collaborative multi-disciplinary research that employs methods from the humanities, social and environmental sciences, informed with a decolonial approach. She has taught the undergraduate geographical tripos, the international development diploma for continuing education, and lectured in political and socioeconomic dimensions of environment (political ecology). In addition to her academic work, Riam has professional experience in the NGO (development, conservation) and business sectors.


2015: PhD. Dissertation: Environmental modernity in Bhutan: Entangled landscapes, Buddhist narratives and inhabiting the land. University of Cambridge, UK. Approved without corrections. Supervisor: Dr. Emma Mawdsley. Examiners: Prof. Geoffrey Samuel (external) and Dr. Hildegard Diemberger (internal).

2008-2009: M.Phil. Environment, Society & Development, University of Cambridge, UK. Dissertation:Bhutan: Dynamics of conservation and development. 

1994-1997: M.A. Jt. Hons. Classics & English Literature, University of Edinburgh, UK. Dissertation: Nature in Mediaeval Lyric.


Key publications: 

Journal articles

  • Kuyakanon, R. (2020 in press). A world in a grain of sand: seeing the rural in urban Bhutan. The Druk Journal
  • Kuyakanon, R. and Gyeltshen, D. (2017). Propitiating the Tsen, Sealing the Mountain: Community mountain-closure ritual and practice in eastern Bhutan. Himalaya: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies. Vol 37 No.1.

Book chapters

  • Higgins-Zogib, Liza, Khenpo Phuntsok Tashi, Tshewang Gyalpo, Sangay Dendhup, Riamsara Kuyakanon Knapp, Kelzang Wangchuk, Ngawang Gyeltshen and Lopen Namgay Tenzin. (2016). “Sacred Mandala: Protecting Bhutan’s Sacred Natural Sites.” In Verschuuren, B. (Ed.), Asian Sacred Natural Sites: An Ancient Asian Philosophy and Practice with Fundamental Significance to Protected Areas. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
  • Kuyakanon Knapp, R. (2014). Reflections on a Bhutanese Buddhist environmental narrative. In Kumagai, S. (Ed.), Bhutanese Buddhism and Its Culture, pp. 183-205. Kathmandu: Vajra.
  • Kuyakanon Knapp, R. (2014). When does “fieldwork” begin? Negotiating pre-field ethical challenges: Experiences in “the academy” and planning fieldwork in Bhutan. In Lunn, J. (Ed.), Fieldwork in the Global South: Ethical Challenges and Dilemmas, pp. 13–24. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
  • Kuyakanon Knapp, R. (2012). Buddhist sacred natural sites conservation: a meeting ground between local and international. In Ura K., and Chophel, D. (Eds.), Buddhism Without Borders: Proceedings of the International Conference on Globalized Buddhism. Bumthang, Bhutan, May 21-23, 2012, pp. 122-135. Thimphu: Centre for Bhutan Studies.

Edited books

  • forthcoming, with D. Sneath and H. Diemberger, Places of Power in Changing Environments:Cosmopolitical Ecologies Across Asia. Routledge.
  • Tharchen, L. (2013). Protected Areas and Biodiversity of Bhutan. Edited by Kuyakanon Knapp, R.S.Thimphu, Bhutan: Lhendup Tharchen.
  • Phuntsho, S., Schmidt, K., Kuyakanon Knapp, R.S.and Temphel, K.J. (Eds.) (2011). Community Forestry in Bhutan: Putting People at the Heart of Poverty Reduction. Jakar, Bhutan: Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) and Social Forestry Division, Royal Government of Bhutan.

Contact Details

Email address: 
Not available for consultancy