High Frontiers by Kenneth Michael Bauer

High Frontiers
ISBN 0231123914
  • Author:
    Kenneth Michael Bauer
  • Title:
    High Frontiers
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  • Publisher:
    Columbia University Press (April 15, 2003)
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    1763 kb
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    1468 kb
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Dolpo is a culturally Tibetan enclave in one of Nepal's most remote regions. The Dolpo-pa, or people of Dolpo, share language, religious and cultural practices, history, and a way of life. Agro-pastoralists who live in some of the highest villages in the world, the Dolpo-pa wrest survival from this inhospitable landscape through a creative combination of farming, animal husbandry, and trade. High Frontiers is an ethnography and ecological history of Dolpo tracing the dramatic transformations in the region's socioeconomic patterns. Once these traders passed freely between Tibet and Nepal with their caravans of yak to exchange salt and grains; they relied on winter pastures in Tibet to maintain their herds. After 1959, China assumed full control over Tibet and the border was closed, restricting livestock migrations and sharply curtailing trade. At the same time, increasing supplies of Indian salt reduced the value of Tibetan salt, undermining Dolpo's economic niche. Dolpo's agro-pastoralists were forced to reinvent their lives by changing their migration patterns, adopting new economic partnerships, and adapting to external agents of change. The region has been transformed as a result of the creation of Nepal's largest national park, the making of Himalaya, a major motion picture filmed on location, the increasing presence of nongovernmental organizations, and a booming trade in medicinal products. High Frontiers examines these transformations at the local level and speculates on the future of pastoralism in this region and across the Himalayas.

Not for everyone. Very detailed. Very geographically specific.
Bauer presents an excellent ethnographic and historical analysis of the changes the people of Dolpo have encountered since 1959, and he demonstrates to us that cultural survival and cultural change are not antithetical to one another. His examination of the resilience and adaptability of Dolpo-pa brings to life the practical importance of local environmental knowledge, human agency, and cultural innovation. As founder of the grass-roots organization DROKPA (meaning "nomad" in Tibetan), Bauer also directs his excellent analytic understanding of pastoralism toward working along with pastoralist populations to respond to the many political, economic, and environmental challenges they face in the 21st century. Very fine research and writing.
Most interesting even for those without a very strong academic background.
High Frontiers makes the landscape and the people of Dolpo come alive. Kenneth Bauer's descriptions are vivid, accurate and heartfelt. His observations in the chapter A Tsampa Western about the filming of Caravan/Himalaya and its impacts on the villagers is timely and thought provoking. One does not need to have an academic background to absorb and enjoy this timely book.