In the Circle of White Stones: Moving through Seasons with Nomads of Eastern Tibet

Paperback | November 21, 2016

byGillian G. Tan

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This narrative of subsistence on the Tibetan plateau describes the life-worlds of people in a region traditionally known as Kham who move with their yaks from pasture to pasture, depending on the milk production of their herd for sustenance. Gillian Tan’s story, based on her own experience of living through seasonal cycles with the people of Dora Karmo between 2006 and 2013, examines the community’s powerful relationship with a Buddhist lama and their interactions with external agents of change. In showing how they perceive their environment and dwell in their world, Tan conveys a spare beauty that honors the stillness and rhythms of nomadic life.

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This narrative of subsistence on the Tibetan plateau describes the life-worlds of people in a region traditionally known as Kham who move with their yaks from pasture to pasture, depending on the milk production of their herd for sustenance. Gillian Tan’s story, based on her own experience of living through seasonal cycles with the peo...

Gillian G. Tan is assistant professor of anthropology at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:175 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:November 21, 2016Publisher:University of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295999489

ISBN - 13:9780295999487

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From the Author

In the Circle of White Stones is an ethnographic memoir based on work and research in an area of Eastern Tibet that covers thirteen years. After first arriving to Eastern Tibet as an English teacher in 2000, Gillian Tan transitions to further study, and to anthropology. She lives with a family of nomads and in a community called Dora Karmo, "The Circle of White Stones". Accepted into the family as guest, and eventually as sister and daughter, she gives us an interpersonal account of life among Dora Karmo nomads, drawing out the laughter and grief that accompanies everyday interactions, movements across pastures and moving through the life-cycle from birth and death to re-birth. This intimate perspective is framed, moreover, by the social and economic changes occurring outside, and within, the community. Beyond its particular place and people, In the Circle of White Stones offers a glimpse into contemporary Tibetan nomad life in the 21st century, moving with a sense of pace and grace that is similar to how one must walk at altitude. It has a spare beauty that honors the stillness and rhythms of nomadic life and movement at a time of rapid social and economic change.

Editorial Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed reading In the Circle of White Stones. I especially appreciate the portrayals of both her interactions with her interlocutors and the changing conditions of life in the pastoral Eastern Tibetan plateau.

- Emily Yeh, author of Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development