‘To climb steep hills, requires slow pace at first'

narratives of cultural resilience in the community of Langtang, in the Nepalese Himalayas


  • Hayley Saul University of York
  • Emma Waterton Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney




Heritage, cultural resilience, Nepal, the Himalayas, Langtang National Park


This photo essay explores the notion of cultural resiliency in the Nepali Himalayas, and carries a geographic focus that is centred on the village of Langtang. Our interest in capturing this area photographically emerges from several recent fieldwork excursions to Nepal and associated experiences of trekking through two distinct areas: the Langtang Valley and the Annapurna Conservation Area. During our visits to each area, we were struck by local efforts to secure a future in a rapidly changing environment. In the Annapurnas, an overarching story of encroaching development emerges, which has destabilised the fragile balance between conservation and development. In Langtang, by contrast, there is a more positive testimony of nearly half a century of cultural compromises necessary for ecological security (e.g., regulation of medicinal plant harvesting), entailing cultural adaptations into a more diverse range of vocational enterprises (like a community cheese-making factory, tourism and so forth). Our purpose in this essay is to engage with, and illustrate, some of the differences between the two.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Hayley Saul, University of York

Hayley Saul is a Research Associate at the University of York in the UK and Director of the Himalayan Exploration and Archaeological Research Team (H.E.A.R.T) research group. Her technical expertise is in the analysis of organic residues, particularly plant microfossils, from a range of substrates for the purposes of environmental and dietary reconstruction. She is interested in the way that subsistence engenders specialized and creative interactions with Himalayan environments for successful adaptation, management, and social innovation. H.E.A.R.T operates in community partnership with Nepalese communities as well as the, charity-NGO Community Action Nepal, with whom Hayley is a heritage consultant, building an archaeology/heritage ‘arm’ to the charity, to operationalize the results of HEART and bring about positive benefits to rural Nepalese communities. Following her PhD at the University of York she undertook AHRC funded post-doctoral research with the Early Pottery in East Asia Project and was a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science post-doctoral fellow on the Japanese Archaeo-Ceramic Residue Research Strategy project (JARRS), that involved generating datasets to track biocultural responses to palaeoenvironment through food technology in Denmark, northern Germany and Japan throughout the Holocene. In 2013-14 she undertook a Fixed Term Lectureship in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, UK. ([email protected])

Emma Waterton, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney

Emma Waterton is an Associate Professor in the geographies of heritage and DECRA Fellow based at the University of Western Sydney. Before joining UWS in 2010, she was a RCUK Academic Fellow at Keele University. Her research explores the interface between heritage, identity, memory and affect. Her current project, ‘Photos of the Past’, is a three year examination of all four concepts at a range of Australian heritage tourism sites, including Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, Sovereign Hill, the Blue Mountains National Park and Kakadu National Park. She is author of over sixty articles, books and chapters, including the monographs Politics, Policy and the Discourses of Heritage in Britain (2010, Palgrave Macmillan), Heritage, Communities and Archaeology (with Laurajane Smith; 2009, Duckworth) and The Semiotics of Heritage Tourism (with Steve Watson; 2014, Channel View Publications). She holds a BA from the University of Queensland, and an MA and PhD from the University of York. ([email protected])


Durham University Himalayan Expedition. 1977. Langtang National Park Management Plan, 1997-82. HMG, UNDP/FAO Project NEP/72/002. HMGN, Durham University Himalayan Expedition.

Igoe, J. and Brockington, D. 2007. “Neoliberal Conservation: A Brief Iintroduction.” Conservation and Society 5(4): 432–449. Available online: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2007/5/4/432/49249

Himalayan Times. 2014. “Manang Folks Protest Lack of Flights.” 30 March.

Khadka, D. and S. K Nepal. 2010. “Local Responses to Participatory Conservation in Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal.” Environmental Management 45(2): 351 362. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00267-009-9405-6

Lama, A. K. and H. Job. 2014. “Protected Areas and Road Developments: Sustainable Development Discourses in the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal.” Erdkunde 68(4): 229–250. http://dx.doi.org/10.3112/erdkunde.2014.04.01

Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. 2014. Nepal Tourism Statistics, 2013. Kathmandu: Government of Nepal.

Sinclair, J. and L. Ham. 2000. “Household Adaptive Strategies: Shaping Livelihood Security in the Western Himalaya.” Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 21(1): 89–112. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02255189.2000.9669884

National Trust for Nature Conservation. 2008. Sustainable Development Plan, Mustang, 2008-2013. Lalitpur, Nepal: National Trust for Nature Conservation.



How to Cite

Saul, H., & Waterton, E. (2016). ‘To climb steep hills, requires slow pace at first’: narratives of cultural resilience in the community of Langtang, in the Nepalese Himalayas. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 2(2), 261–282. https://doi.org/10.1558/jca.v2i2.26995



Photo Essays