Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies
Ph.D., Cornell University, 1980
Research Interests: sociocultural anthropology; ethnographic practice and writing; ritual, myth, and social organization; culture and power; ethnicity; shamanism; Buddhism; Himalayan cultures and societies; South Asia
My initial research among the Tamang - a Tibeto-Burman speaking population in Nepal - focused on ritual syncretism or hybridity: the relations among Buddhist, shamanic, and sacrificial practices in a society where people married their cross cousins. Although I sustain core interests in theories of ritual and myth broadly conceived, I have also turned my attention to how ritual and myth play out in relation to the broader context of power in society. I am now in the midst of writing a book based on a second major field project of a more ethnohistorical kind. Along with Kathryn March, I have been reconstructing the nature of a state system of forced labor through the memories of villagers and through archival evidence. This feudal system continued until the 1960s in some Tamang locales and its affects are still critical to an understanding of the contemporary situation in Nepal. This project has led me to expand my early research focus on ritual and social organization not only into questions of state formation, culture and politics, ritual as social production, and social violence but questions related to the history of anthropology of the Himalayas, transnational social relations in South Asia, and the anthropology of power, especially the nature of symbolic or sacred power. Along with this project, I have also been closely following recent developments in identity or ethnic politics in Nepal and studying the affects of the Maoist insurgency on Tamang villages as well as ritual developments. I have a strong commitment to theoretically engaged ethnography as the principle mode of knowledge production in anthropology. I also sustain very close ties to both the people with whom I work in Nepal and to academic institutions in Nepal where, over the last decade, we have developed a joint program with Tribhuvan University.
- (Co-authored with Kathryn S. March, Surya Man Tamang, Bhim Bahadur Tamang) Mutual Regards: America and Nepal Seen through Each Other's Eyes. Kathmandu: Jivan Support Press.
- Order in Paradox: Myth, Ritual, and Exchange among Nepal's Tamang. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. (Paperback edition 1991; South Asian Edition published by Motilal Banarsidas, 1996 with new introduction)
- “Contingency, Collaboration, and the Unimagined over Thirty-five Years of Ethnography.” in Returns to the Field: Long-term Ethnographic Research and Contemporary Anthropology. Signe Howell and Aud Talle, editors. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
- From Naturalization to Rationalization in Western Tamang Buddhist Practice. Namgyal, Institute for Buddhist Studies, Gangtok, Sikkim.
- “All Politics is Local.” in Views from the Field: Anthropological Perspectives on the Constituent Assembly Elections. Baha Occasional Papers 2: 9-22. Kathmandu: Social Science Baha.
- For Ethnography. Keynote Address, Proceedings of the International Conference of the Sociological/Anthropological Society of Nepal, December 11-13, 2006, pp. 9-19. Kathmandu: Sociological/Anthropological Society of Nepal and Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research North-South.
- “Outcastes in an ‘Egalitarian’ Society: Tamang/Blacksmith Relations from Tamang Perspective.” in Occasional Papers in Sociology and Anthropolology, Volume 10. Edited by Ram Bahadur Chhetri and Laya Prasad Uprety. Kirtipur, Kathmandu: The Central Department of Sociology/Anthropology, Tribhuvan University.
- "Violence, Noviolence, Sacrifice, Rebellion, and the State." Studies in Nepali History and Society 11.1:31-64
- "Transcendence, Power, and Regeneration in Tamang Shamanic Practice." Critique of Anthropology 26.1:87-101
- "Transcendence and Magical Power in Tamang Shamanic Soundings." Himalayan Research Bulletin.
- "Derision, Exorcism, and the Ritual Generation of the Power."American Ethnologist, 27.4:227-249.
- "Local Production/Local Knowledge: Forced Labour from Below." (co-authored with Kathryn March and Suryaman Tamang). Studies in Nepali History and Society 4.1:5-64.
- "Introduction to South Asian Edition." In Order in Paradox: Myth, Ritual, and Exchange among Nepal's Tamang (South Asian Edition): ix-xi. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas.
- "The Shamanic Illusion."Journal of Ritual Studies 7.1:163-174.
- "Ritual Paradoxes in Nepal: Comparative Perspectives on Tamang Religion." Journal of Asian Studies 43.4 (August): 697-722.
- "Shamanic Soundings: Femaleness in the Tamang Ritual Structure." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 9.1: 40-58.