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.
Karine Gagné is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Guelph