This exploration of a Himalayan Sherpa ritual engages contemporary cultural anthropology debates concerning ethnographic essentialism, positivism, and so-called postmodernist approaches. The author notes a parallelism between Buddhist Sherpa ritual processes that call upon patrons to engage in mimesis with idealized images of themselves and ethnographic representations that call for Sherpas to become that which is desired by foreign others. A positivist reading of Sherpas thus leads us toward both a necessary reflexivity about the effects of our writing upon them and the adoption of a strategic essentialism aware of its karmic consequences.
American Anthropologist is the flagship journal of the American Anthropological Association. The journal advances the Association's mission through publishing articles that add to, integrate, synthesize, and interpret anthropological knowledge; commentaries and essays on issues of importance to the discipline; and reviews of books, films, sound recordings, and exhibits.