"If Each Comes Halfway": Meeting Tamang Women in Nepal

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For twenty-five years, Kathryn S. March has collected the life stories of the women of a Buddhist Tamang farming community in Nepal. In If Each Comes Halfway, she shows the process by which she and Tamang women reached across their cultural differences to find common ground. March allows the women's own words to paint a vivid portrait of their highland home. Because Tamang women frequently told their stories by singing poetic songs in the middle of their conversations with March, each book includes a CD of traditional songs not recorded elsewhere. Striking photographs of the Tamang people accent the book's written accounts and the CD's musical examples. In conversation and song, the Tamang open their sem―their "hearts-and-minds"―as they address a broad range of topics: life in extended households, women's property issues, wage employment and out-migration, sexism, and troubled relations with other ethnic groups. Young women reflect on uncertainties. Middle-aged women discuss obligations. Older women speak poignantly, and bluntly, about weariness and waiting to die. The goal of March's approach to ethnography is to place Tamang women in control of how their stories are told and allow an unusually intimate glimpse into their world.

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Review:

"A beautiful ethnography that especially gives younger scholars a profound insight not only into the complexity of village life but more generally into fieldwork methodology."―Anthropology Review Database

"If Each Comes Halfway is a beautiful ethnography that especially gives younger scholars a profound insight not only the complexity of village life but more generally into fieldwork methodology. As the title suggests, the book requested not only the engagement of these five Tamang women but also requires an open and engaged reader."―Stefanie Lotter, University of Heidelberg, Anthropology Review

"Kathryn March's careful research has resulted in a book that captures the essence of agricultural society as seen through the eyes of its female inhabitants. The result is an original project that blends anthropological scholarship with oral history. Interestingly, the narratives are a complex compendium of song and narrative. . . . Interwoven throughout these themes and narratives is the emergence of song as important adjunct to storytelling. The poetry and rhythm of songs help convey meaning and inspire an audience to focus its attention on the storyteller, March writes. Her research indicates the integral role music plays in preserving Tamang history. . . . The author evokes an otherworldly sense of this specific culture even as she strives to record their life histories as accurately as possible. The women interviewed literally put their hearts and souls into the telling and singing of their personal stories and of the larger story of the Tamang people."―Andrea Kleinhenz, Z Magazine Online, September 2003, vol. 16, no. 9

"'If Each Comes Halfway ' is compelling, insightful, and deeply honest. Kathryn March brings the reader to these Himalayan women and their unfolding lives with the nuance of a friend and the authority of a scholar. March translates their words, concepts, and worldviews with meticulous care and offers a warm and vivid account of complex lives in a village world."―Ernestine McHugh, University of Rochester

"'If Each Comes Halfway 'is a moving work of love, a unique tapestry of ethnography and poetry. Its title is from a Tamang women's song and refers to courtship in a mountainous landscape, but Kathryn March means equally to evoke the anthropological project of knowing others. Her book is about remembering, aging, singing, giving birth, caring for children and elders, and mourning. IT ALSO TREATS gender, power, and a great deal more, including beer, popcorn, fieldwork, and life histories. March guides us with impeccable care and utmost respect through Tamang women's complex narrative self- portraits."―Ann Grodzins Gold, Syracuse University

"Kathryn March's rich and provocative book is rooted in a strong sense of the local and shaped by a fine ear and remarkable linguistic skills."If Each Comes Halfway" is exceptional in both its scholarly quality and the humane and insightful intelligence which informs it."―Don Brenneis, University of California, Santa Cruz

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