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Tigers of the Snow and Other Virtual Sherpas

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Tigers of the Snow and Other Virtual Sherpas [Paperback]

Vincanne Adams
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 19, 1995 0691001111 978-0691001111

Sherpas are portrayed by Westerners as heroic mountain guides, or "tigers of the snow," as Buddhist adepts, and as a people in touch with intimate ways of life that seem no longer available in the Western world. In this book, Vincanne Adams explores how attempts to characterize an "authentic" Sherpa are complicated by Western fascination with Sherpas and by the Sherpas' desires to live up to Western portrayals of them. Noting that diplomatic aides at world summit meetings go by the name "Sherpa," as do a van in the U.K. built for rough terrain and a software product from Silicon Valley, Adams examines the "authenticating" effects of this mobile signifier on a community of Himalayan Sherpas who live at the base of Mount Everest, Nepal, and its "deauthenticating" effects on anthropological representation.

This book speaks not only to anthropologists concerned with ethnographic portrayals of Otherness but also to those working in cultural studies who are concerned with ethnographically grounded analyses of representations. Throughout Adams illustrates how one might undertake an ethnography of transnationally produced subjects by using the notion of "virtual" identities. In a manner informed by both Buddhism and shamanism, virtual Sherpas are always both real and distilled reflections of the desires that produce them.

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Editorial Reviews


"Adams's book promises to be a provocative if not controversial contribution to the field of Himalayan Studies; it should also stir debate among those concerned with ethnography, cultural studies, [and] identity construction."--Journal of Asian Studies

About the Author

Vincanne Adams is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University.

Product details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 30, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691001111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691001111
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #589,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hitting a nerve March 23, 2006
"What is authenticity except anthropology in its most profitable guise?" (229)

In Tigers of the Snow and Other Virtual Sherpas, Vincanne Adams (1996) provocatively takes on not only long-cherished images of Sherpas, but also an underlying paradigm of much of the anthropological enterprise. That she hits a nerve is perhaps indicated by the two other readers' reviews, which would in fact deserve to be cited in a new edition (and not just for their entertainment value): rather than dismiss them for obviously not getting the point, the American reader's demand to "stop scrutinizing those lovely folk", and the Sherpa's for both a more favorable and a more "substantial" (i.e. essentialist) portrayal of his people, can both be read more profitably as a defense of each group's interests in face of what to them seems like an attack on the Sherpas, but what is in fact one on misconceived notions of authenticity and reality.

Still, the concerns voiced here hint at a problem this book is self-consciously trying to overcome: how can analytical rigor be reconciled with the interests of the people one studies? How, in other words, can we avoid disempowering those we speak of, and at the same time avoid simply reproducing the very discourse that we are trying to study - even if, as in this case, it seems to be working to the satisfaction of both sides involved? The solution offered here is especially interesting as it uses the parallels between postmodern theory (esp. Baudrillard, Taussig, Ricoeur) and Buddhist philosophy to displace the perspective from a Western to a Sherpa standpoint, however scripturalized and elitist it may be. Mimesis thus happens here not only in the analysis, but also to the analysis.
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6 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars ethnography and the 21st century February 24, 2000
Having recently visited Nepal, where I bought a copy of this spectacularly arrogant book (Thamel namaste), I have felt moved to write this review. In the fullness of time, I have no doubt that history will not kindly judge authors of Adams' genre. Ethnography, race and culturality are fraught subjects and just as the prevalent works of the late 19th century describe Africans as "unreliable and savage beasts undeserving of their upright posture..... prone to unreasonable rages.....etc etc etc ", so Adams' curious conclusions will outrage. Stop scrutinising those lovely folk please! They're as human as you and me. And no more books on other folks - this is the new millennium.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The anthropology of ambivalence May 26, 1999
By A Customer
The "Tiger of the Snows" medal was awarded by the Himalayan Club in the Pre-Everest (1953) days to Sherpas who proved themselves especially able mountaineers and even worthier companions; in all given to less than 20 stalwarts. Ang Tsering (still alive today), for example, went on to gather the German Red Cross award in Nazi Germany for his role in the Nanga Parbat epics, possibly the only non-"aryan" who was so willingly decorated by a government whose ideology was infamously race-driven. To Vincanne Adams however, the tweed suits behind the desks of the Himalayan Club and other such admirers of these mountain folk would all be conforming to her curiously self conceptualised, pseudoanthropological theory of projection and counter projection of the entities of "virtual sherpa" and western sahib. A somewhat bizarre, supposed pantomime of masochistic role-play that everyone but everyone in the Adams' world of barf-driven academia apparently indulges in. To the memory of the mostly dead Tigers of the Snow, she does a special injustice as she does to the Sherpas in the other valleys of Nepal, and the desendants of the original pioneers in Darjeeling, India, whose numbers together far exceed the 3000 Khumbu Sherpas she so desparately attempts to bracket into the "seductive native" category. Read more ›
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