Day 2: 25 July (Thursday)
Chair: Sudhindra Sharma, Executive Director, Interdisciplinary Analysts
|Sudeep Jana Thing
PhD Candidate, Faculty of Humanities at Curtin University, Western Australia
|Politics of Conservation and Space: National Park and Sonaha Ethnic Minorities|
|Soma Kumari Rana
Programme Officer (GESI), SSMP/HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Nepal
Shiva Kumar Shrestha
Senior Programme Officer, SSMP/HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Nepal
|Decentralising the Farmer-to-Farmer Extension Approach to the Local Level: Challenges and Opportunities|
PhD candidate, Department of Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz
|Water Unites, Water Divides: Resistance to the West Seti and Upper Karnali Dams in Nepal|
Discussant: Christie Lai Ming Lam, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka University
BREAK: 11 am – 11:30 am
Chair: David Gellner, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Oxford
Senior Researcher, National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), Paris
|Caste in Contemporary Nepal: Hierarchy and Equality|
Research Assistant, Institution for Advanced Social Research, Kwansei Gakuin University
|Cultural Politics in the Markets: A Case from Inter-Caste Negotiations at Meat Business in Kathmandu|
|Ajaya N Mali
Tutor, Nepā School of Social Sciences and Humanities
|The Newar Town and the Festival|
Discussant: Sujeet K Karn, Department of Social Sciences, University of Hull
LUNCH: 1:30 – 2:30 pm
Chair: Mahendra Lawoti, Professor, Department of Political Science, Western Michigan University
|Khem Raj Shreesh
Executive Director, Interdisciplinary Analysts
|Paul Collier and Nepal’s Prospects for Coming Out of the Conflict Trap|
|Sujeet K Karn
Department of Social Sciences, University of Hull
|‘Grief Arising Out of Violent Death is Like Swallowing a Hot Chilli’: A Nepali Case|
Discussant: Mara Malagodi, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Law, London School of Economics and Political Science
BREAK: 4 – 5 pm
Moderator: Hira Vishwakarma, Executive President, Dalit Studies and Development Centre
Professor, Department of Political Science, Western Michigan University
|Democracy in Trouble? Political Elite’s Attitude and Behaviour and Regime Instability in Nepal|
Politics of Conservation and Space: National Park and Sonaha Ethnic Minorities
Sudeep Jana Thing, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Humanities at Curtin University, Western Australia
Abstract: This paper problematises the recent participatory turn in conservation policy and practices through the experiences and struggles of Sonaha ethnic minorities in relation to Bardiya National Park, the largest protected area in the Nepalese lowland. Claims of Sonaha elders suggest that their long standing occupancy and association with the riverine and riparian territory of the lower Karnali River delta has met with a progressively exclusionary conservation regime of the national park. Traditionally leading a semi mobile life in and around the delta, and engaged in small scale fishing and gold panning for subsistence, the lives and realities of Sonahas have been heavily implicated by the state intervention in the name of nature and biodiversity conservation.
In the global conservation domain, Nepal is portrayed as a country with progressive conservation policies and practices. Since the mid-1990s, the country’s conservation thinking and policy paradigms have shifted away from its earlier protectionist and fortress conservation to participatory, community-based, and people oriented conservation approaches, and again towards conservation of ecosystems and landscapes. However, for Sonahas, such participatory reform has become an extension of conventional top-down conservation regime. Based on an ongoing critical ethnographic work with marginalised Sonahas in the delta (buffer zone of the national park) who are significantly dependant on the resources of the natural environment, this paper presents an argument on the crisis of such participatory reform. At a time when the country is moving through the agenda of inclusive transformation, Sonahas’ experience with the conservation regime offers important insights into the politics of inclusion and participatory governance. In particular, this paper challenges the rhetoric of participatory conservation and development that legitimises top-down, techno-bureaucratic, military-centric, nature-focused, and globally-oriented conservation regime that further marginalised the local poor and indigenous groups.
Examination of the Sonahas’ experiences and resistance strongly suggests interplays of both the direct state power and violence in the name of conservation, as well more subtle and indirect exercise of power and domination. These are understood as informed by the concepts of ‘subjectivity’ and ‘governmentality’ (Foucault), ‘hegemony’ (Gramsci), and ‘symbolic violence’ (Bourdieu) in the context of conservation. The current ‘Park-People’ conflict debates in Nepal is problematised through social theory of ‘space’ (Lefebvre, Bourdieu) and its politics is problematised under a framework of political ecology, towards reframing democratic governance of protected areas and spaces for representation and articulation in the nature conservation regime, hence, reframing the existing conservation politics.
Decentralising the Farmer-to-Farmer Extension Approach to the Local Level: Challenges and Opportunities
Soma Kumari Rana, Programme Officer (GESI), SSMP/HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Nepal; Shiva Kumar Shrestha, Senior Programme Officer, SSMP/HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Nepal
Abstract: Since 1999 (2055 BS), the Swiss-funded Sustainable Soil Management Programme (SSMP), which is implemented by HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, has been promoting a decentralised extension system, the Farmer-to-Farmer approach (FtF), as a means to disseminate appropriate agricultural technologies to mid-hill farmers unreached by government extension services. The importance of this approach has been realised by district and local level stakeholders, as well as in the national policy arena. The FtF approach aims to improve agriculture service delivery to rural farmers in Nepal, especially rural women and the disadvantaged in remote areas, which has been limited by poor access to extension services and information, poor access to and control over resources, and a lack of a gender sensitive extension system.
The Local Self Governance Act of Nepal (LSGA 2055 BS, 1999) has clearly indicated the rights and responsibilities of local bodies in relation to decentralised service delivery. In the spirit of the LSGA, the subsequent VDC-block grant operating guidelines (2067 BS, 2011) have also given high priority to agriculture service provision. However, due to lack of institutional mechanisms, and financial and human resources, the decentralisation of agriculture development has not taken place as envisaged by the LSGA. In order to increase the access to agricultural services by rural communities, SSMP has begun to facilitate the establishment of VDC-level Agriculture Forest and Environment Committees (AFECs) as functional institutions to manage the FtF extension approach. This is undertaken through mobilising SSMP’s Experienced Leader Farmers (ELFs) who provide agricultural coaching and services to farmer groups in remote areas. The development and mobilisation of ELFs to provide agriculture services to previously unreached farmers is one of the successful and cost effective strategies developed by SSMP, and has resulted in increased empowerment and productivity, and improved livelihoods.
SSMP, through this decentralised agriculture extension, is reaching women and other disadvantaged groups with a package of appropriate agricultural technologies, but faces challenges in a number of areas – strengthening the capacities of AFECs and ELFs; enhancing the awareness and importance of Gender Equity, Social Inclusion and Poverty (GESIP) amongst the programme’s partner stakeholders; acceptance of female leadership in the AFECs; the mobility of women and Dalit extension workers; and the commonly institutionalised gender roles in agricultural and household work.
This paper argues that interventions should not just be about increasing agricultural production, but must also be concerned with integrating on-farm issues from the perspective of socio-economics, equity, and institutional politics. It highlights the need for field implementers to acquire sensitivity and solid social competencies to ensure that extension services reach the socio-economically disadvantaged groups, not just the elites. It concludes that embedding a gender and social inclusion approach into agricultural extension programmes requires long-term dedicated focus, appropriate strategies, resources, and a determined effort from all concerned stakeholders.
Water Unites, Water Divides: Resistance to the West Seti and Upper Karnali Dams in Nepal
Christopher Butler, PhD candidate, Department of Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz
Abstract: Several South Asian countries have pinned a hefty portion of their future growth to hydropower from dams (Crow and Singh 2009; Pomeranz 2009). To ensure their success, state and corporate authorities have privatized many natural resources formerly considered to be common property, a development that dispossesses rural residents of land and water access, and delivers a serious impediment to already difficult livelihoods. Nepal is no exception to this trend. In a country the size of the state of Indiana, Nepal hosts two dams with two more currently under construction, and seven others proposed for construction within the next decade (Dharmadhikary 2008).
Having recently emerged from a ten-year civil conflict (1996-2006) with Maoist insurgents, the new Nepalese republic is faced with a delicate balancing act: attempting to grow the national economy, partly through hydropower export, and to provide meaningful representation to rural areas from whence the insurgency sprang and where the dams will be located. While the rise in ethnic and caste interests played a key role in the new republic’s post-insurgency democratization, some scholars note that newly acquired rights and cultural recognition will remain toothless until living standards are improved for low caste and marginalized ethnic groups in the rural areas.
This preliminary study investigates the different forms of resistance to the proposed West Seti and Upper Karnali dams in western Nepal. Using mixed methods, this comparative project examines the ways that dams threaten to upset historical patterns of water access and land use in rural areas and the ways that these potential changes influence a community’s willingness to mobilise in resistance and the mode of that resistance. Secondly, this paper considers the extent to which competing visions of progress expressed by governmental and non-governmental interests intersect with local knowledge and moral economies. The systematic comparison between sites generates insights into processes that shape conflict and mediation as it also provides details about the multivariate influences that come to bear on key actors.
The preliminary data gathered at West Seti and Upper Karnali may serve a crucial, far-reaching concern: If development of rural areas and state revenue generation depends on hydropower, this growth can only be sustained by examining the forms and to what extent rural people apprehend the potential future changes to their livelihoods by a proposed dam. Furthermore, understanding the nature of resistance to dams in rural areas may lead to more productive and informed dialogue between the state, the dam construction firms, and local residents. As a result, local residents—particularly low caste and marginalized ethnic groups—may be better positioned to demand and receive commensurate representation and compensation.
Note: This is preliminary research conducted in support of fieldwork that the author will undertake in 2013-2014.
Caste in Contemporary Nepal: Hierarchy and Equality
Gérard Toffin, Senior Researcher, National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), Paris
Since the fall of royalty in May 2008, Nepal has theoretically become a republican state made up of equal citizens. Nepali society is still based on caste (and ethnicity) but the ideological context has changed considerably. The egalitarians values, which have been operative for some decades, and the new political environment have gradually caused a shift. Today, the caste system is rejected by a large number of people and of religious movements, even among Hindus. This rejection is perhaps of a more radical nature than in India, where it still plays an important role in public discourse. This paper addresses these paradigmatic changes and their impact on caste reality throughout the country. First of all, it focuses on the changes in terminology (if any), in the meaning of the word jati, which is still used in the official contemporary Nepali vocabulary. Then it explores the two main related processes that are at work in this field: ethnicisation and substantialization of caste. In response to the ethnic politics advocated by adivasi/janajati groups, the politicization of caste groups has thus intensified significantly in recent years.
The main argument is that, as a global system of social relations, the caste system is slowly dying out. Yet castes have retained their strength in the form of independent, competitive, and self-centred groups, seeking to defend their own identity and interests. Caste consciousness and pride in belonging to such or such high caste are up to the present day key ideological elements. Furthermore, in spite of the increasing number of inter-caste marriages, there is still a tendency to marry within one’s own caste in a large number of communities. Last but not least, it is worth noting that caste transformations are not uniform in Nepal. Although there has been a noticeable relaxation of restrictions on inter-caste dining in urban areas, the old rules of commensality strictly apply in rural areas. Some examples will be taken from various parts of the country, and in particular from the Kathmandu Valley.
Cultural Politics in the Markets: a Case from Inter-Caste Negotiations at Meat Business in Kathmandu
Kanako Nakagawa, Research Assistant, Institution for Advanced Social Research, Kwansei Gakuin University
Abstract: This paper examines the shift in the inter-caste relationships brought about by the commercialisation of the meat markets in Kathmandu Valley, by focusing on every day practices of Khaḍgī caste, who have been engaged in slaughtering, processing, and trading of livestock as a caste-based-role in Newar society.
Recently in Kathmandu, the people from other castes and religious groups, including Muslim ‘foreigners’ have involved in the process of distributing meat which used to be primarily dominated by Khaḍgīs. In the meat distribution process, they have usually retained their own norms and ethics which have rendered the meat market a cultural and religious mosaic. For example, Muslims keep practicing halal even when they slaughter the animals for the markets. Rai and Limbu, who are indigenous ethnic groups from eastern parts of Nepal, have brought into practice the eating of pork to Kathmandu Valley, where people tend to avoid eating pork since they are regarded as ‘impure’.
Under such current conditions, Khaḍgīs negotiate in the everyday commercial practices with other castes and religious groups, as well as re-interpret/re-define their caste-based self-image. In 1973, Khaḍgī established their caste-based association. Pressurised by the formation of meat markets and non Khaḍgī entrances to the markets, this caste-based association has enlarged its role as an agent for re-interpreting caste-image to ensure their caste category, thus enabling them to maintain an advantage in the market. Shifts in the inter-caste relationships have been brought about through this re-interpretation. For example, some members of Khaḍgī have been refused their traditional caste-based-roles which they considered to be linked with caste hierarchy.
These developments can be seen as a result of the individualisation mediated by the market economy. However, in the case of Khaḍgī, since their livelihood is keenly connected with the caste based role, they don’t simply seek the way for individualisation, but re-interpret the category of caste to facilitate their livelihoods by articulating themselves with the norms of ‘caste-based-role’ and ‘market trade’. In contrast to earlier studies that were based on people’s strategic symbolic re-interpretation in the ethnic identity politics, this paper points out that the everyday commercial practices also represent domains where the cultural politics have been engaged. Furthermore, this reorganisation of inter-caste relationships based on the commercial practices might have brought about changes in people’s sense of value and ethics, and open for them an alternative way for cultural politics.
The Newar Town and the Festival
Ajaya N Mali, Tutor, Nepā School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Abstract: This paper will analyse modern life in Kathmandu through French Marxist Henri Lefebvre’s interpretation of alienation and the festival.
Lefebvre, in his critique of modern urban life, speaks about the alienation present in the lives of ordinary people. Lefebvre contends that modernism, which capitalism has ushered in, is inherently alienating because of the lack of control that individuals have on their lives and their inability to escape the drudgery of the daily routine, which is itself controlled by the capitalist economy based on mass consumerism. With the rise of uniformity in urban space and the daily routine as well as the patterns of capitalist consumption, aspects of pre-modern life, like festival and style, decline. The festival refers to the gaiety and independence individuals experience in their daily lives, which is not controlled and directed unlike the daily routine of the modern city. Style refers to the Marxian idea of the individual’s ability to harness their inner potential and individuality in the creation of products that fulfill their needs. Using the language characteristic of Cultural Marxism, Lefebvre sees the modern city as an extended factory that thrives through the regulated production and consumption of capitalist products.
Lefebvre’s Marxist project features primarily an examination of ways in which modern capitalist life has confined, rather than liberated, individuals. People are seen as atomized ‘human sand’, individualistic and ‘mystified’. They are deprived of an opportunity to participate in the major events in the public sphere through their confinement to the private in the form of passive witnesses, thereby perpetuating the separation of work, leisure, and private life as well as that of the social from the political. Finally, the consumerist economy is responsible for the individual’s survival for social existence since ‘to exist’ is identical to ‘to have’. One of the key ways Lefebvre believes praxis can be achieved is through a return to the festival.
This paper will contrast the rise of the modern city of Kathmandu with the pre-modern town of Yen. Through Lefebvre’s critique of the modern city, the pre-modern Newar town will be studied as a possible exemplar of the social condition that from the Marxian perspective stands as the antithesis of the regimented modern life. A study on the ‘festivity’ in the Newar town will also lead to an examination of the presence, or non-presence, of style, as opposed to regimentation; and participation in the public sphere as opposed to atomistic modern living.
Such a Marxian examination will also lead to a scrutiny of the ‘repressive’ elements in Newar society such as patriarchy and the caste system. On this basis, the work therefore examines the validity of using cultural Marxist critiques of modernism for studying the Newar town and, by extension, the relevance of the Hindu town in its ecologically ‘climactic’ state to the study of alienation in modern society.
Paul Collier and Nepal’s Prospects for Coming Out of the Conflict Trap
Khem Raj Shreesh; and Sudhindra Sharma, Executive Director, Interdisciplinary Analysts
Abstract: Paul Collier, a professor of political economy and a well known conflict scholar points to the vicious conflict traps, which entrap a country into a vicious trap, from which it becomes difficult to get out. Nepal’s current predicament, i.e., a protracted post-conflict transition, resonates with Collier’s argument that there is a high probability of post-conflict countries returning to conflict within the first decade of the peace agreement. This paper makes an attempt to engage with the ideas of Paul Collier through a discussion of Nepal’s political economy.
Paul Collier, who is associated with ‘greed not grievance’ hypothesis, has subsequently revised his theory into what is called the ‘feasibility hypothesis’ viz. where it is feasible, a conflict will occur. Collier has also demonstrated how it is probable for a country coming out of a conflict to relapse back into conflict. The paper will draw upon Collier’s ideas of traps and try to locate the proximate causes of Nepal’s conflict and its cost, and explain the economic trends, especially in light of the political instability and various identity-based agitation movements, and explore the post-conflict political-economy dynamics to ascertain the prospects of lasting peace for Nepal.
While not discounting the autonomy of political actors (or in other words, the ‘agency’), this paper will concentrate on the ‘structures’ such as Nepal’s political economy and the demographic features of the population and examine the implication of these inter-alia Collier’s thesis. It will examine the inter-relationship between political instability (that has come about once political parties by-passed or subverted the principle of consensus) and poor economic performance, and how one reinforces the other, and in doing so how these tend to undermine Nepal’s prospects for lasting peace. Examining Nepal’s GDP (including the composition, role and trends of agriculture, industry, and service sectors), foreign trade (including the composition and trends of imports and exports), the remittance and foreign employment, the structure of government revenue and expenditure, including that supported by foreign aid, and the trends of tourism, the paper assesses the overall trends in political economy and its implications for consolidation of peace.
‘Grief Arising Out of Violent Death is Like Swallowing a Hot Chilli’: A Nepali Case
Sujeet K Karn, Department of Social Sciences, University of Hull
Abstract: This paper seeks to discuss death and bereavement arising from political violence in Nepal. Throughout the paper, an attempt is made to analyse death and bereavement in the context of a post-conflict situation with an emphasis on the people’s engagement with death and their coping mechanisms for grief and loss. In the post-conflict Nepali perspective, when death is discussed in reference to political violence, it is understood in its multifaceted approach. Findings from the field suggest an overarching complexity in which the people of Nepal continue to make meaning out of death and are able to make a judgement to move beyond loss and suffering to continue their life. Moreover, death constitutes an important feature of the Maoist Conflict. When careful attention is paid to visualise the pretext of death during the Maoist conflict, it becomes apparent that death has multiple meanings coinciding with multiple layers.
While the processes of recuperation go hand in hand in various different ways, whether by formulating meaning out of death or engaging practices in return, yet the foremost aspect of death is its immense potential for intense emotional impact on the survivors. Strong reactions such as disbelief, the fear to continue life after the death of a loved one, rage and anger towards those who were involved in the killing, helplessness and acceptance of fate, and questions coupled with submission to the unknown and invisible power were seen as the overriding characteristics of grief and bereavement in regard to death. This was experienced in ‘mana’ (heart-mind) and ‘sarira’ (body) by reflecting through ‘mana’ (heart) and ‘dimag’ (mind) in a framework of ‘dukkha’.
Moreover, in the absence of the traditional ritual practices and social support, along with guidance for dealing with pain and suffering, bereaved members were left to rely on their own conscious efforts to comprehend grief. Violent death fractured the existing processes while constructing new meanings for the bereaved by restricting the bereaved to their confined kinship boundaries. Protection and survival of the rest of the family members surfaced as an utmost concern, which persisted beyond traditional ritual practices and social norms and reflected in subjective terms. This suggests two parallel interpretations in which people had possibly processed subjective states in relation to grief and loss or as Giddens (1991) terms it, ‘double hermeneutics’. At one level, one may note the lack of psychology (discipline, profession, treatment, technology absorbed by all) in Nepal. That might have affected whether and how people process subjective states. On the other, one may argue that it was the religion and philosophy around religion that produced the psychology of the people, by which the bereaved processed their subjective states. This displays a tension between drawing on tradition as a spiritual resource and social framework, and the challenges to those traditional sources of support posed by the type of bereavement experiences resulting from violent death.
Democracy in Trouble? Political Elite’s Attitude and Behaviour and Regime Instability in Nepal
Mahendra Lawoti, Professor, Department of Political Science, Western Michigan University
Abstract: This paper investigates the attitudes of Nepali parliamentarians toward democratic values during Nepal’s second democratic interregnum (1990-2002). Was the elite attitude favourable for the consolidation of democracy in Nepal? Elites play significant roles in democratization of a country. Investigations of elite attitude becomes important when democracy does not consolidate, and even more so when the general public and scholars blame the elite for it. Empirical study of democratic values elite hold not only help us determine whether they are responsible for the lack of consolidation, but can identify variables that can be targeted for addressing the problems.
The study is based on structured interviews of 101 (out of 265) legislators in 2000. The random sample was stratified based on political party, ethnicity/caste, gender, and regions. The survey employed standard questionnaires used in many studies around the world with relevant modifications for sensitizing to the particular context of Nepali culture and politics.
The paper presents perceptions of regime legitimacy/support of political institutions and political tolerance to examine whether the Nepali parliamentarians supported the democratic regime and demonstrated democratic values (tolerance). The parliamentarians’ attitude toward different aspects of democracy demonstrates values that may be problematic for sustenance and/or consolidation of democracy.
The paper also identifies variables that are responsible for such attitudes. For instance, political ideology, religion, region, age, former profession, and years as a legislator have significant impact on political support/alienation. Likewise, gender and former professions have significant impact on tolerance. Interestingly, education does not have significant impact on both the dependent variables. Such analysis can identify areas and groups that need to be targeted for remedial policies for promoting democratic consolidation in the future.