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Life and Death on Mt. Everest


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix Acknowledgments Xi Note to the Reader xiii CHAPTER 1. Beginning 3 CHAPTER 2. Sahibs 26 CHAPTER 3. Sherpas 56 CHAPTER 4. Monks 90 CHAPTER 5. Death 124 CHAPTER 6. Men 149 CHAPTER 7. Counterculture 185 CHAPTER 8. Women 217 CHAPTER 9. Reconfigurations 248 CHAPTER 10. Epilogue 281 APPENDIX A.Tales 295 APPENDIX B. Monasteries 307 Notes 319 References Cited 355 Index 369

Promotional Information

Sherry Ortner's Life and Death on Mt. Everest is a stunning book: it is a probing ethnography of the strange, unequal relationship between 'sahibs' and Sherpas, a suggestive social history of the contemporary leisure class, and a powerful, often painful meditation on the cult and culture of high-risk mountaineering. With a humane, ironic, steady, and compassionate gaze, Ortner looks at lives lived at the edge of an abyss. -- Stephen Greenblatt Sherry Ortner's Life and Death on Mt. Everest is an extraordinary study of the Sherpa people, opening windows into the realities of their lives and minds, a revelatory look at the whole mountaineering thing from their perspective, and an amazingly rich account of the fascinating world of the Himalayas and the Tibetan peoples. This book is a must read for any student of Tibet and the history of the interactions of Westerners and Tibetan peoples. -- Robert Thurman Ortner has always been one of the clearest and most forceful writers among contemporary anthropologists and her wit and lucidity are once again in evidence here. -- Arjun Appadurai, University of Chicago This highly readable book demonstrates the best of what contemporary anthropology can offer scholars and the reading public alike. A fascinating account of a timely subject. -- Naomi Bishop

About the Author

Sherry B. Ortner is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Her most recent publications include The Fate of "Culture": Geertz and Beyond and Making Gender. The Politics and Erotics of Culture. She has received numerous prestigious awards, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.


Winner of the J.I. Staley Prize "[Ortner's book] written so clearly and with such evident fascination with the subject that it's more than just accessible to lay readers: it's captivating. I've had anthropology texts put me to sleep right after morning coffee, but this one kept me awake at night."--Michael Parfit, New York Times Book Review "Having lived and worked with the Sherpas for more than thirty years as a serious anthropologist, Ortner is in an ideal position to introduce the other, unknown culture involved with Himalayan climbing... Fascinating."--Pico Iyer, New York Review of Books "The book brings us a much richer understanding of the cultural partnership underpinning Himalayan mountaineering... Life and Death on Mt. Everest is a swift and canny guide to this uncharted territory."--Alison Demos, Lingua Franca "Sherry Ortner reveals the details of Sherpa life on and off the mountain and sweeps away a century of misguided characterizations... [This] book is one of those rare crossover works, a scholarly exploration of Sherpa culture that the lay reader (climber or not) will find utterly fascinating."--Newsday "[A] first-rate study... [Ortner] is an intelligent and fair-minded scholar who has combed the mountain literature and fused it with what she observed in the field."--David Craig, Los Angeles Times "A remarkable display of agile fieldwork, sensitive to all the distinctive shadings that compose [the] subject... Ortner arrives at a complex but cohesive portrait of the century-long Sherpa association with the mountaineers..."--Kirkus Reviews "This is not another nail-biting saga of alpine disaster, but rather--finally--an authoritative study of the group that has made summiting 8,000-meter Himalayan peaks possible for Westerners... Ortner retells the Everest story from the Sherpa point of view..."--Outside "A fascinating examination of the world of the Sherpas... [Ortner's] book is an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look at mountaineering."--Library Journal "A well-written and thorough account...and the only book on this topic."--Choice "A fascinating new study of the interaction between Western climbers and Sherpas..."--Susan Spano, Los Angeles Times

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