'If each comes halfway’ in doing Tamang women’s life histories

Kathryn S. March is Graduate Professor and Professor Emerita of Anthropology, Feminist/Gender/Sexuality Studies, and Public Affairs at Cornell University, where she received her PhD in 1979. She first went to Nepal in 1973 and has lived with indigenous Tibeto-origin peoples in the Himalayas, specifically the Sherpa and Tamang, and worked on questions of gender, social justice and change, since 1975.

Abstract: This presentation shares what I learned working with fourteen women’s life histories in a small agrarian village beginning in 1975 and ending with the publication of my book ‘If each comes halfway’: meeting Tamang women in Nepal. It will explore and try to assess (1) why anthropologists (and readers) are attracted to personal life narratives, (2) how we might better have done, or in the future, do anthropological life history work, and (3) what kinds of insights there are to be found in such work, or, at least, in the work I was able to do with these generous women. Throughout, ethical issues are pivotal: that we be not naïve about presumptions of transparency; that we attend to problems of privacy, audience, and translation in the largest sense; and that our work be intrinsically collaborative, dialogic, and mutually rewarding. But I also hope to convey the richness resulting from this kind of careful attention to the words and lives of others, and to continue to uphold the centrality of life history work to the ethnographic endeavour.

Monday, 14 November 2022, 5pm

Old Library, All Souls College, and on Teams at this link.