Anthropology Review: “Trekking Tradition”

Rural Nepalese welcomes societal change in “Trekking Tradition”

By Crystal Hollis | Fall 2010 | ANTH 1150 World Cultures Through Film

While most cultures that experienced drastic colonialism are unable to catch up, the Nepalese villagers in the film Trekking Tradition is an example of a type of culture that had adapted to the “invasion” of the western capitalism. The change that the villagers experience is a result from interactions that occurred over time. They were not controlled by private or governmental authority and were able to make their own choices. While some neighboring villagers criticize of how this specific village in the film is declining from tradition, the village themselves embraced modernization because of the convenience that came with it. Because of this embrace of the benefits, the peasant natives of the small village in rural Nepal were very welcoming of the tourists that can afford to travel to their mountains.

The Nepalese in the film has a strong aspiration to become modernized. According to the lectures, modernization is defined as the economic, social, political, and religious change that is interrelated with modern industrial and technological developments. The Nepalese were influenced by the market and felt that they have found life easier through trading with western society. Modern society technology, such as electricity and the toilet, appealed to them.  Everyone has a role to play in the village and there is a division of labor in tourism-related jobs that helped the village becomes charming. The restaurant workers are educated by the Nepalese government and are trained in culinary arts so that they can make the type of food that the tourists like. The Nepalese used to have village harmony and relative balance but now “work for money and not human or brotherly love.” Moving toward a more individualist, secular mindset the rural Nepalese no longer has time to worship traditional religion. Even though the villagers are somewhat a folk society, they are trying to go beyond being non-literate, small, and isolated. They opened their town for the rest of the world to explore.

A community can only respond in terms of structure and movements because of establishments, information, and experience. The Nepalese men were able to make decisions and experienced economic achievement on a local scale from adapting to modern society. The structure among the villagers is simple and somewhat pre-modernized.  The villagers function by competing with each other and ultimately working together to get the westerners to trek their mountains. Relationships in the village are evident in the form of kinship and also non-relatives. Some lodge owners adopt the orphan children; the children help work for the business in exchange for childcare, food, and shelter. The women were mentioned in the film as the “backbone” of the village but the men still have control over the economy. The village worked for the community but also at the same time worked for personal interests from property owners that are economically competing. The tour guides and lodge owners now has a different sense of individuation, defining themselves through their work rather than through their culture.

The villagers in the film is similar to the natives in Cannibal Tours since both groups depended on western luxurious tourists to form their economy and were able to use their profit to buy goods. Both used significant buildings to gain a profit; The Nepalese converted the teahouses to lodges for tourists to sleep in and the Papua New Guineans made profit from pictures being taken of the sacred shrines. The Peasant and natives were motivated to highlight their tourist economy because money helps make their lives easier in their point of view.

Some of the villagers didn’t like the peasant lifestyle that belonged to their culture; some wanted leisure and ease the same as what the western tourists has. But the villagers have somewhat a utopian biased view of the westerners but that is only because people with wealth and time were able to visit their village. The male youth are even attracted to western women, seeking love and romance. One tourist remarked how the Nepalese are only seeing the benefits of western culture; they are shocked at the idea that even in western society that poverty and crime still exists. The ethnocentric suppression of negative images from the western world limits the fact that modern society is not as perfect as perceived.

The villagers, a peasant type society, welcomed western culture and the economic prospect that comes with it. They yearn to become modernized because of the technology benefits that came with it. The community work together to get the village as a great tourist attraction but at the same time the property owners are waning from traditional values to individuation through work and materialism. Despite ease of life through technology and money, the modern world is not as superlative as thought but even though that is true, the small village is at a point where it is able to make their own decisions and participate willingly with the rest of the world instead of forcibly.

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