Doing ethnographic research in the Himalayas when an earthquake strikes




  • Producer Dallas Rogers
  • Doing Ethnographic Research In The Himalayas When An Earthquake Strikes

Hayley Saul and Emma Waterton were doing ethnographic and anthropological fieldwork in the Langtang valley in Nepal when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit in 2015. The earthquake killed more than 9,000 people.

At the time of the quake, they were with several local guides from the village of Langtang, one of the worst affected areas in Nepal. Emma and Hayley were recording local oral histories. Their ethnographic research was recording how local stories are written into the Himalayan landscape.

Little do they know that their guides’ knowledge of the landscape would save their lives many times over, and enabled them to reach safety after the quake.

Saul and Waterton have been fundraising to assist the displaced villagers of Langtang in collaboration with Community Action Nepal. You can read about their story and find out more about their relief efforts here: Langtang Survivors.


Dr Emma Waterton is an Associate Professor at the University of Western Sydney, where she is affiliated with both the School of Social Sciences and Psychology and the Institute for Culture and Society. She holds a BA (anthropology) for UQ and an MA (Archaeological Heritage Management) and a PhD from the University of York. Her research explores the interface between heritage, identity, memory and affect at a range of heritage sites. She is author of Politics, Policy and the Discourses of Heritage in Britain (2010, Palgrave Macmillan) and co-author of the Semiotics of Heritage Tourism (with Steve Watson; 2014; Channel View Publications), and Heritage, Communities and Archaeology (with Laurajane Smith; 2009, Duckworth).

Dr Hayley Saul completed her PhD in 2011, on the Baltic Foragers and Early Farmers Ceramic Research project, specialising in the study of plant microfossils, particularly in pottery residues. Since then, she has completed a post-doctoral research position in Japan, looking at why some of the earliest pottery in the word was invented. Most recently, she has set up a fieldwork project in the Nepalese Himalayas called the Himalayan Exploration and Archaeological Research Team (HEART). Alongside fieldwork, HEART collaborates with local communities, NGOs and charities to stimulate the local economies of this developing region of the world using heritage-based initiatives.


ABC NEWS Nepal Earthquake
Free Music Archive Hiroshima by Galley Six
Free Music Archive 01 ocp–fds by OCP
Free Music Archive Himalaya by Edoardo Romani Capelo 

Dallas produced a longer version of this interview for The Conversation’s Speaking With podcast on 21/08/2015.