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History India & South Asia

Caring for Glaciers

Land, Animals, and Humanity in the Himalayas

by (author) Karine Gagné

foreword by K. Sivaramakrishnan

University of Washington Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2019
India & South Asia, Cultural, Environmental Conservation & Protection
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2019
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  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2019
    List Price

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Regional geopolitical processes have turned the Himalayan region of Ladakh, in northwest India, into a strategic border area with an increasing military presence that has decentered the traditional agropastoralist economy. This in turn has led to social fragmentation, the growing isolation of elders, and ethical dilemmas for those who strive to maintain traditional subsistence activities. Simultaneously, climate change is causing glaciers?a vital source of life in the region?to recede, which elders perceive as the consequence of a broken bond with the natural environment and the deities that inhabit the landscape.
Caring for Glaciers looks at the causes and consequences of ongoing social and cultural change in peoples? relationship with the natural environment. It illuminates how relations of reciprocity - learned through everyday life and work in the mountains with the animals, glaciers, and deities that form Ladakh's sacred geography - shape and nurture an ethics of care. Integrating contemporary studies of affect, landscape, and multispecies anthropology, Caring for Glaciers contributes to the anthropology of ethics by examining the moral order that develops through the embodied experience of life and work in the Himalayas.

About the authors

Karine Gagne is assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Guelph. She received her PhD in anthropology from the University of Montreal in 2015. This is her first book.

Karine Gagné's profile page

Kalyanakrishnan "Shivi" Sivaramakrishnan is Dinakar Singh Professor of India and South Asia Studies, professor of anthropology, professor of forestry and environmental studies, and codirector of the Program in Agrarian Studies, Yale University.

K. Sivaramakrishnan's profile page


  • Winner, James Fisher Prize for First Books on the Himalayan Region

Editorial Reviews

"In an outstanding example of multispecies anthropology based on 18 months of field research in Ladakh, northwest India, Gagné (anthropology, Univ. of Guelph) examines the consequences of war since 1948, the militarization of the border, demographic shifts, economic transformations, and unpredictable rainfall on agro-pastoral communities. . . .Highly recommended."


"[A]n eloquent ethnographic exploration of how ethics and morality are cultivated through the everyday practices of living in the high desert of Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas."


"[A]n evocative ethnography of how the Tibetan Buddhist Ladakhis on the borderlands of India's northwestern frontier have coped with the dramatic changes in the context of their lives since the 1947 partition of India. [A] profoundly compelling story of how globalization, conflict, and climate change have transformed people and, yes, glaciers."

Journal of Anthropological Research

"[A] rich and timely ethnography exploring the ethical dimen-sion of human entanglement with the non?human world...The great strength of Caring for Glaciers lies in the depth of its ethnographic description, drawing out the entanglement of political and environmental factors in modern Ladakh. It deserves to be read not only by regional specialists, but by anyone with an interest in human relations with the more?than?human world."

Social Anthropology

"[A] unique integrative account of generational and climate resiliency in the Himalayas."

Anthropological Quarterly

"This refreshing, honest-to-life portrayal of ethnographic moments makes this an essential book for anyone interested in understanding contemporary issues in the Himalayas and changing human-cryosphere relationships. . . . Gagné demonstrates that the region becomes meaningful through the entanglements of land, animals, and humans. In Caring for Glaciers, readers learn that the ethics of care, which maintain these entanglements, are eroding. It is therefore a sobering gift."

Journal of Asian Studies

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