Sherpa Purity1


  • 1

    The research on which this paper is based was conducted in Nepal between September, 1966, and February, 1968. It was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health. The paper was written under the tenure of a Wenner-Gren Foundation grant. I would like to thank Stephen A. Barnett, Clifford Geertz, Robert A. Paul, and Martin G. Silverman for reading and commenting on an earlier draft. I would also like to thank Anne Marie Mariella for expert editorial assistance.


This paper explores the relationship between explicit cultural forms (“symbols”) and underlying cultural orientations. It assumes the position that the two are intimately interrelated, indeed inseparable, and further that it is the symbolic forms themselves which are the mechanisms linking underlying cultural orientations to observable modes of socio-cultural action. These points are elaborated through a detailed analysis of one such body of cultural forms, the set of phenomena considered polluting among the Sherpas of Nepal.