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The purpose of this collection is to feature selected discourses and interviews as provided by members of the Lowa community of Mustang District, Nepal.

About This Collection

This collection is the result of a National Science Foundation RAPID project (BCS 1547377) to collect, annotate, and make publicly available multi-participant interviews and narratives conducted with survivors of Nepal’s major earthquakes that occurred in April and May 2015. The geo-linguistic focus is communities of Tibeto-Burman language-speaking peoples from three contiguous districts of Nepal’s Western Zone: Mustang, Manang and Gorkha, including local residents and also migrants who are now involved in relief and rebuilding efforts. The research questions are: 1) What do survivors and responders know about, and how can they explain the earthquakes based on their lifelong linguistic, cultural and environmental experiences? 2) How do survivors and responders view their world through these earthquakes and their aftermath, particularly in terms of causality and consequence? This research is important because there is precious little information about the impacts on language demographics and practices in sudden catastrophic events that coincide with great migration movements. Additionally, without an immediate effort to capture and document variation and nuances, the experiences that different people underwent will be influenced and re-shaped by reports gathered from the media and other relief agencies working in Nepal. This study focuses on the relationship between humans and their social and physical environment, providing valuable insider perspectives on why and how they create and maintain their livelihoods in places where extreme environmental conditions are a constant and powerful presence. The interviews and narratives will enable disaster planners and responders to establish best-practice advice, based on local and culturally appropriate ethnographic practice, one that is tailored to the demographic, spatial, medical and cultural needs of different communities. This study will provide ideas, originating from local participants, about how local healers and responders can provide ritual and medical services that will be beneficial to the highland communities, which are an important part of the overall Nepal demography.

The variables integrated into the interviews include: location and origin of the survivor or responder, and distance from the quake epicenter; kind of terrain of the village (mountain valley, hills, flat; ridge top, valley floor, slope); social environment (city; town; village; field outpost); structures in place or damaged (traditional, modern), and building materials (wood or stone, on walls or as roofs); responses already in action and kinds of planned responses; local religion(s); local labor force; medical facilities in place; local language practices; feelings about post-quake response by local and non-local agencies and individuals, assessment of future community vitality. The research toolsh have been approved for human subjects and informed consent review at all institutions for which the project members are affiliated.

The narrative process asks individuals to share, in monologue or dialogue form, their experiences, descriptions of their actions and responses, their self-evaluation of the usefulness of their actions, their understanding/perception of why these events took place, their perception of why their local area was impacted in the way that it was, and how they would like to see repair/reconstruction occur, with what agency, and with what stated goals. As with the interviews, topic choices and degree of detail will be controlled by the participants, based on their ability and willingness to share vivid memories and sometimes-controversial opinions.

Background Information on Lowa 

Lowa is located in the Northern hemisphere of Nepal (29.03, 83.90). The ISO-639 Code assigned to Lowa is (lov) and the glottocode is (Lowa 1242). Lowa is comprised of 2 dialect languages: Baragaunle and Upper Mustang. The meaning of Mustang is defined as "Plains of Aspiration" derived from the Tibetan language. The Lowa population is primarily comprised of farmers, shepherds, and merchants. The farmers grow wheat, barley wheat, and buckwheat. They also raise farm animals such as  yaks, cows, sheep, horses,and many other animals. During the colder months, they will begin to sell herbs by visiting different villages for approximately 3 months. Lowa is comprised of 3 social hierarchical groups: Kutak, Showa, and Righin.  Only a few Kutak people live around the town of Lo Manthang as most are now living in the upper villages of Upper Mustang named Lo. The Kutak are considered of royal family stature, the Showa are the majority of the population known as Gurungs, and the Righin is the lowest in ritual status. The Righni is not considered of equal stature with the Kutak and the Showa. 

Selected References

Hill, Nathan & Owen-Smith, Thomas. 2014. Trans-Himalayan linguistics: historical and descriptive linguistics of the Himalayan area. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Kretschmar, Monika. 1995. Wörterbuch zum Südmustang-Dialekt. (Erzählungen und Dialekt aus Südmustang, 4.) Bonn: VGH-Wissenschaftsverl. 527pp. (Beiträge zur tibetischen Erzählforschung. Beiträge zur tibetischen Erzählforschung ; 12.4).

Kretschmar, Monika. 1995. Untersuchung zur Grammatik des Südmustang-Dialekts. (Erzählungen und Dialekt aus Südmustang, 1.) Bonn: VGH-Wissenschaftsverl. 374pp. (Beiträge zur tibetischen Erzählforschung. Beiträge zur tibetischen Erzählforschung ; 12.1)

Kretschmar, Monika. 1995. Deutsche Übersetzung der verschrifteten Texte. (Erzählungen und Dialekt aus Südmustang, 3.) Bonn: VGH-Wissenschaftsverl. 373pp. (Beiträge zur tibetischen Erzählforschung. Beiträge zur tibetischen Erzählforschung ; 12.3).

Kretschmar, Monika and Gurung, Angya. 1985. Märchen und Schwänke aus Mustang (Nepal). (Beiträge zur tibetischen Erzählforschung, 7.) Sankt Augustin: VGH Wissenschaftsverl. 328pp.

Kretschmar, Monika. 1995. Die Verschriftung der mündlich überlieferten Texte. (Erzählungen und Dialekt aus Südmustang, 2.) Bonn: VGH-Wissenschaftsverl. 237pp. (Beiträge zur tibetischen Erzählforschung. Beiträge zur tibetischen Erzählforschung ; 12.2).

Nagano, Yasuhiko. 1988. Preliminary notes on Glo-Skad (Mustang Tibetan). In Graham Thurgood and James A. Matisoff and David Bradley (eds.), Linguistics of the Sino-Tibetan Area: The state of the art papers presented to Paul K. Benedict for his 71st birthday, 451-462. Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.

Lapolla, Randy J. & Thurgood, Graham. 2007. The Sino-Tibetan languages. Oxford, UK: Routledge.

Lowa. 2016. Glottolog 


Audio-Video Items in this collection

The list below includes items from this Collection’s Subcollections.

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