Home Institution

Washington University in St. Louis

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples


This project is fundamentally one of documentation and rumination, a case study of a profound change taking place. I initially sought to exercise my creative voice, and to uncover the world of the yak, a dying world at that. As my time progressed in Lower Mustang, it became clear that given the breadth and depth of change in the area, a more extensive and detailed analysis was necessary to truly paint a picture of the ways in which yak herding, engrained so finely into the cultural and social tapestry of the landscape, is disappearing. In this paper, using primarily interviewee’s own words, I will illustrate the current significance, in the context of both capital and culture, of the yak, and recount the multitude of ways in which climate change, outmigration, nefarious national policy, conservation efforts, and changing cultural values, are making pastoral livelihoods less and less feasible. Finally, I provide a sketch of Khung Khanay Chard, the annual yak blood drinking festival that took place in Naurikot during my time in Lower Mustang, and a fine example of the transformations stated above. I will also interplay the ways in which song, poem, and myth inherently emerge out of pastoralism, a juxtaposition, the yak immortalized within this story of the mortality of pastoralism.


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Animal Sciences | Animal Studies | Asian History | Asian Studies | Creative Writing | East Asian Languages and Societies | Fiber, Textile, and Weaving Arts | Human Ecology | Place and Environment | Poetry | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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