The Digital Himalaya project

I’ve been busy lately preparing for a two-week research trip to England. We hope to find some kind of archival footage we can use for our film. In the process I stumbled upon this excellent web site.

The Digital Himalaya project was conceived of by Professor Alan Macfarlane and Mark Turin as a strategy for archiving and making available valuable ethnographic materials from the Himalayan region. Based jointly at the Department of Social Anthropology at Cambridge University and the Anthropology Department at Cornell University, the project began in December 2000.

Of particular interest to Savage Minders is the Fürer-Haimendorf Film Collection:

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf lived and worked as an anthropologist throughout the Himalayas from the 1930s through the 1980s. Fürer-Haimendorf’s specific interests included the Naga ethnic groups of the North Eastern Frontier Area of India and the Sherpa ethnic group of north-eastern Nepal. However, he travelled far and wide throughout the entire region, taking over 100 hours of film throughout his career. Extraordinary in both its breadth and its depth, the Fürer-Haimendorf collection is one of the finest extant ethnographic film collections that document Himalayan cultures. The collection includes both archival footage from Fürer-Haimendorf’s lengthy research career in the Himalayas, as well as interviews with the Professor himself recorded on video. Samples of both appear below. The Fürer-Haimendorf film collection is currently located in the Department of Social Anthropology at Cambridge University. DART (Digital Anthropology Resources for Teaching) has compiled a selected set of Haimendorf’s fieldwork notes on the Sherpas of Nepal which will appeal to scholars interested in his ethnographic field techniques.

The DART web site has this short biography of Haimendorf:

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf was born on June 22, 1909, in Vienna, Austria. He studied anthropology in Vienna under the tutelage of scholars of the Kulturkreis school. He was a prolific fieldworker, amassing an impressive archive of material on South Asian groups, with a particular focus on Nepal and northeastern India.

While conducting postdoctoral research at the London School of Economics, Fürer-Haimendorf became well acquainted with many of the leading lights of British anthropology, including Bronislaw Malinowski, Raymond Firth, Meyer Fortes, and Audrey Richards. World War II broke out while he was on his second field trip in India, and like Malinowski before him, Fürer-Haimendorf was arrested as an enemy alien. Confined to Hyderabad State for the duration of the war, he undertook extensive fieldwork among the inhabitants of that region. Upon returning to Europe in 1949, he began his fruitful tenure at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, where he served as chair of a growing anthropology department between 1950 and 1975. After a long and influential career, Fürer-Haimendorf died on June 11, 1995.