The Annual Kathmandu Conference on Nepal and the Himalaya 2017

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26-28 July • Hotel Shanker, Lazimpat

The following panels/papers have been selected for this year’s conference. Please click on the paper title to read the abstract. A more detailed schedule will be uploaded in July.




Paper Title

Panel Title

1. Amy Leigh Johnson
PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology and School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, USA
Settler Sensibilities and Environmental Change: The Unmaking of a Malarial Landscape in the Farwest Tarai

The Social Lives of Malaria in the Nepal Tarai: Studies of Environment, the Nation-State, Neighbors/Others, and the Body from East to West

2. Priyankar Bahadur Chand
Nepal Government Partnerships Manager, Possible Health Nepal, Kathmandu
Biological Statehood: Sickle Cell Disease & Citizenship in Contemporary Nepal
3. Janak Rai
Associate Professor, Anthropology, Central Department of Anthropology, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Adivasi Body, Malaria, and the State in Nepal: Perspectives from Indigenous Historical Analysis
4. Ivan Deschenaux
PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics, UK
Does Intercaste Marriage Change the Way in which People Think About Caste?

Intermarriage in Nepal

5. Bimla Kumari Gurung
PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, Gurunanak Dev University, India
Intermarriages and Generational Relations: A Sociological Study in Kathmandu Valley
6. Claire Martinus
Lecturer, Anthropology, University of Lille 3, France
Castes Mixture and Marriage in the Capital City of an Ancient Hindu Kingdom. A Study of the Transformations of Matrimonial Practices in Nepal
7. Krishna P. Adhikari
Research Fellow, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA), University of Oxford, UK
David N. Gellner
Professor, Social Anthropology and Fellow, All Souls College, University of Oxford, UK
Arjun Bahadur B.K.
Independent Researcher
International Labour Migration from Nepal and Changing Caste-based Institutions and Inter-caste Relations

Dalits in a Changing Society

8. Steve Folmar
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Wake Forest University, USA
Being, Becoming, Belonging: The Paradox of Identity and Mental Suffering among Nepal’s Dalits
9. Richard Bownas
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and International Affairs, University of Northern Colorado, USA
Ratna Bishokarma
MPhil, Central Department of Sociology, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Did the Earthquake and Earthquake Relief have a Differential Impact on Lower Caste Groups? A Case Study of Sindhupalchok District, Nepal
10. Kumud Rana
PhD Candidate, College of Social Sciences PhD Studentship, University of Glasgow, UK
Queer Dissidence in Times of Revolution

Sexing the State: Negotiating Sexual Politics in Naya Nepal

11. Sarah Rich-Zendel
PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, Ontario
Beyond the State: Social Institutions and the Transformation of Sexual Norms in Nepal
12. Shubha Kayastha
MA, Gender Studies, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Women with Physical Disability within the Sexual Rights Discourse in Nepal
13. Pramod Bhatta
Senior Researcher, Martin Chautari, Kathmandu
‘Communityization’ of Public Schools and the Realities of ‘free’ Education in Nepal

Public Finance Dynamics in School Education in Nepal

14. Uma Pradhan
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Education Anthropology, Aarhus University, Denmark
Becoming ‘eligible’: Documents, Intermediary Actors, and the State in Education Scholarship Programmes

15. Shak B. Budhathoki
Associate Researcher, Martin Chautari, Kathmandu
The Use and Misuse of State Resources in Nepal’s Public Schools
16. Seira Tamang Independent Researcher Enabling ‘business as usual’: Donors and Peacebuilding in Nepal post 2006

Securing the Status quo: Donors, Development and Reconstruction in Post-war Nepal

17. James Sharrock
Independent Researcher
Remote Response: International Humanitarianism and Nepal’s 2015 Earthquakes
18. Agastaya Thapa
PhD Candidate, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
Local Faces and Places: Tourist Art and Representational Practices of Culture and Identity in Darjeeling Hills TBD
19. Andrew Haxby
MI. PhD Candidate, Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
22 Houses Near the River: Reflections on Reconstruction, Youth and Home TBD
20. Arjun Bahadur BK
Independent Researcher
Social Stratification and Dalit Leadership in Nepal TBD
21. Asaf Sharabi
Peres Academic Center, Israel
Hagar Shalev
PhD Candidate, Asian Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Charismatic Mediumship and Traditional Priesthood: Possession in Himalayan Hinduism TBD
22. Avash Piya
PhD Candidate, Aarhus University, Denmark
Brokers of Hope: Intermediaries in the Recruitment Industry in Nepal TBD
23. Bal Krishna Khadka
Assistant Professor, School of Management, Kathmandu University, Nepal
Pranaya Sthapit
Researcher, Interdisciplinary Analysts, Kathmandu
Sudhindra Sharma
Executive Director, Interdisciplinary Analysts, Kathmandu
Does Joining Self Help Group Have Any Effect on Empowerment? TBD
24. Bal Bahadur Thapa
Lecturer, Central Department of English, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
A Trajectory of Nepali Modernity: A Narrative of Ruptures and Repairs TBD
25. Balram Uprety
Assistant Professor, English, St. Joseph’s College, India
The Legacy of Silence: The Politics of Voice in Nepali Tīj
26. Briana Mawby and Anna Applebaum
Hillary Rodham Clinton Research Fellows, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, USA
Rebuilding Nepal: Women’s Roles in Political Transition and Post-Disaster Recovery TBD
27. Gaurav Lamichhane
PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, Germany
Involuntary Childlessness in Nepal: Plural Healing Practices and Healing Journeys of Nepali Men TBD
28. Jill Allison
Global Health Co-ordinator, Clinical Assistant Professor, Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
Madhusudan Subedi
Professor, Central Department of Sociology Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Cathy Ellis
Bachelor of Fine Arts, Registered Midwife, MSc., Canada
Bhakta Dev Shrestha
Medical officer, National Health Education Information and Communication Centre, Nepal
Nani Kaway
Master in Nursing (Women Health and Development), Institute of Medicine, Nepal
Llamo Sherpa
Department of Community Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway
Accounting for Local Culture to Promote Safer Births in Rural and Remote Nepal

29. Kalyan Bhandari
Lecturer, Events, Hospitality & Tourism, School of Business and Enterprise, University of the West of Scotland, UK
The Sociology of Mt Everest

30. Krishna Sharma
M.Phil. student, Economics, South Asian University, India
Schools as an Arena of Struggle: Reexamining the Panchayat Era Politics of Education  TBD
31. Laura Kunreuther
Director, Anthropology, Bard College, USA
Translating Voice: On the Labor of Interpreters in Global Institutions TBD
32. Liana E. Chase
Phd Candidate, Anthropology, SOAS, University of London, UK
Shifting Ecologies of Mental Health Care in Post-Earthquake Nepal TBD
33. Lokranjan Parajuli
Senior Researcher, Martin Chautari, Kathmandu
Schools as an Arena of Struggle: Reexamining the Panchayat Era Politics of Education 
34. Mahendra Lawoti
Professor, Department of Political Science, Western Michigan University, USA
Poverty, Diversity and Democracy: Breakdown, Erosion and Endurance in South Asia TBD
35. Michael C. Baltutis
Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies & Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, USA
Textualizing a Festival: the Indra festival in 19th century Nepal TBD
36. Mohammad Ayub
Research Associate, Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility (CESLAM), Social Science Baha, Kathmandu
Muslims of Nepal: Trajectories of Marginalization A Review of Literature TBD
37. Mona Shrestha Adhikari
Fellow, South Asia Watch on Trade Economics and Environment, (SAWTEE), Kathmandu
Analysing the Construction of Gendered Work: A Case of Hotels, Resorts and Casinos in the Kathmandu Valley TBD
38. Nayna Jhaveri
Independent Researcher
Forest Futures: Tenure Mosaics of Nepal’s Terai Arc Landscape TBD
39. Nishesh Chalise
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, Augsburg College, USA
Exploring Social and Economic Disparities in Nepal TBD
40. Nivedita Nath
Phd Candidate, History, University of California, USA
Who’s Holy Cow is it Anyway? Towards a Haptic History of Human-Animal Interactions in the Western Himalaya TBD
41. Obindra B. Chand and Radha Adhikari
Research Associate, Social Science Baha, Nepal; Visiting Research Fellow, School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh, UK
Ethnographic Exploration of Maternal and Child Health Projects in Nepal: A Critical Analysis of the Data Collection Processes
42. Pooja Thapa
PhD Candidate, Sociology, Institute for Social and Economic Change, India
Religion and Development in Sikkim TBD
43. Rajendra Pradhan
Managing Director, Nepā School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Nepal
Ruth Meinzen-Dick
Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute, USA
Sophie Theis
Research Analyst, International Food Policy Research Institute, USA
Property Rights, Intersectionality, and Women’s Empowerment: Examining the meanings of property for women with different social locations in Nepal TBD
44. Rajendra Raj Timilsina
PhD Candidate, School of Education, Kathmandu University, Nepal
Re-emergence of Gurukul in Nepal: Deconstructing Vedic Tradition for Girls TBD
45. Ram Narayan Shrestha
PhD Candidate, South Asian University, India
Work-related Migration Aspirations in Youths of Nepal: An Empirical Analysis TBD
46. Romain Valadaud
Phd Candidate, Geography Institute, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
Irrigation, Power Relations and Social Inequalities
47. Sangay Tamang
PhD Candidate, Department of Humanities and Social Science, Indian Institute of Technology, India
MULIKI AIN: An Invisible Burden for Nepali in India TBD
48. Sanjay Sharma and Neha Choudhary
Master’s in Political Science, Central European University, Hungary; Recruitment and Migration Manager, FSI Worldwide Limited Emp Nepal Pvt. Ltd., Nepal
Gendered Citizenship: National Security versus Equality TBD
49. Shishir Lamichhane
Research Officer, Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice, Nepal
Universal Human Rights Versus Domestic Courts: Rethinking The Cultural Relativist Debate In Nepal TBD
50. Shristi Sijapati
MSc. International Development, University of Manchester, UK
Damodar Khanal
Campaigner, Save the Children UK
Examining INGOs’ Support for the Education of Marginalised Girls in Nepal TBD
51. Sumit Kumar Sarma
Research Scholar, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, India
Anxiety, Assertion and the Politics of Naming: The Making of ‘Assameli- Gorkha’ TBD
52. Susan Clarke
Phd Candidate, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Australia
Sit up to feed your baby and you will have no problem…An Explanatory Model of Childhood Ear Disease and Gender Inequality in Jumla TBD
53. Sushila Chatterjee Nepali and Kanchan Lama
Women Leading for Change in Natural Resources, Nepal
Transformation in Gender Norms for Innovation and Development in Agriculture and NRM Sector: A Case Study of Jajarkot, Myagdi and Devdaha, Nepal TBD
54. Snehashish Mitra
Research and Programme Assistant, Calcutta Research Group, India
Citizen, Immigrant, Native: The Many Challenges of Being Nepali in Northeast India TBD
55. Tashi Tsering Ghale
Independent Researcher
Mi-Tse: Struggles of Dolpo Woman (Documentary, 45 min) TBD
56. Thomas B. Robertson
Associate Professor, History, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA
“Guns and Fences” Conservation in Asia?: The Origins and Evolution of Nepal’s Chitwan National Park TBD

The Organising Team
Conference Organising Committee

Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies
•Teri Allendorf, University of Wisconsin-Madison
• Sya Kedzior, Towson University

Britain-Nepal Academic Council
• Krishna Adhikari, University of Oxford
• David Gellner, University of Oxford

Centre for Himalayan Studies-CNRS
•Tristan Bruslé, Centre for Himalayan Studies-CNRS
•Gérard Toffin, Centre for Himalayan Studies-CNRS

Nepal Academic Network
•Tatsuro Fujikura, Kyoto University
•Katsuo Nawa, University of Tokyo

Social Science Baha
•Rajendra Pradhan, Social Science Baha
•Bandita Sijapati, Social Science Baha

Conference Secretariat, Social Science Baha
Deepak Thapa
Tracy Ghale
Rita Bhujel


Panel 1: The Social Lives of Malaria in the Nepal Tarai: Studies of Environment, the Nation-State, Neighbors/Others, and the Body from East to West
Panel Convener: Amy Leigh Johnson, PhD Candidate, Environmental Anthropology, Yale University, USA
Proposed Chair: Thomas B. Robertson, Associate Professor, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA
Proposed Discussant: Thomas B. Robertson, Associate Professor, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA

Panel Abstract: The mid‐twentieth century management of endemic malaria in the Tarai of Nepal, North and Northeast India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan transformed patterns of migration and settlement in the subcontinent and the trajectory of nation‐building projects across Northern South Asia. Before the appearance of internationally financed and state‐directed malaria management in Nepal in 1951, the Tarai of Nepal—particularly its western and eastern‐most peripheries—remained a densely forested, sparsely settled, frontier zone.Malaria management “opened” the Tarai to year-round, permanent settlement by non-Tarai dwelling peoples, primarily from the northern Hills. Prior to 1951, Hill dwelling peoples who interacted with the Tarai did so on a seasonal basis, arriving in the winter months to graze cattle, trade goods in border towns, work on estates planting winter crops, and provide services (religious, artisan, agricultural) to Tarai residents. As the temporality of Hill‐Tarai interactions shifted in malarial regions, so did degrees of intimacy between the Tarai and the Nepali nation‐state, indexed by new systems of land management, expanded infrastructure building, reimagined administrative and judicial regimes, and the introduction of development programming. Malaria management in the mid‐twentieth century fomented novel relations with the Nepal Tarai that continue to have far‐reaching repercussions on the environmental, social, and political dynamics of the Tarai region, adjacent Hills, and the Nepal nation‐state. In this context, we ask what an examination of the changing social lives of malaria reveals about contemporary and historical relations with Tarai environments, the Nepali nation‐state, neighbors/others, and the body

By deploying the concept social lives of malaria, we mean to draw attention to the imbrication of non‐human species (in this case, mosquito subspecies A. minimus, A. fluviatilis, A. culicifacies, etc.) in social phenomena. Our panel proceeds from this vantage to explore the material and social effects, the emotive affects, and emic conceptualizations associated with malaria in the Nepal Tarai. Contributing to Tom Robertson’s call for an historical political ecology of malaria in Nepal, the papers will highlight the ways Tarai residents interact with the political, historical, and cultural ecology of malaria, and the effects of malaria eradication projects, especially as they challenge and reimagine understandings of environment, the nation-‐state, the body, and others/neighbors.Through anthropological lenses grounded in medical anthropology, environmental anthropology, and anthropology of the state and development, we aim to diversify our understanding of the Tarai, its peoples, and ecologies in order to shed light on the significance of the environment and its management for shaping social realities and social/political possibilities.
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Paper 2: Settler Sensibilities and Environmental Change: The Unmaking of a Malarial Landscape in the Farwest Tarai
Amy Leigh Johnson
, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology and School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, USA

Abstract: From the vantage of Farwest Nepal’s Hill dwelling peoples, the Tarai has been historically experienced and represented as inhospitable for year‐round residence due in part to malaria and other diseases thought to be innate to the Tarai environment. By the mid‐ twentieth century, however, malaria eradication projects began contributing to the emergence of a new perspective that envisioned the Tarai as a haven for Hill peoples argued to face a triumvirate of poverty, overpopulation, and natural disasters in their home regions. Conceptualizing the jungles of Kailali as potentially pastoral and habitable for Hill dwellers entailed a material as well as imaginative transformation of the landscape. In this paper, I will attend to the articulation of affective and physical labor accompanying the unmaking of a malarial landscape, connecting environmental changes to the formation of a settler sensibility in the Farwest Tarai.

In comparison to the Central and Eastern Tarai, malaria eradication efforts occurred later in the Farwestern region, beginning only in 1964—more than a decade after the reintroduction of malaria management to Nepal in 1951. The temporality of Tarai migration within the Farwest soon outpaced the planned management of malaria. The science supporting malaria management in Nepal understood transmission of malaria to occur near human dwellings, granaries, and village water sources more so than jungles, streams, or rivers. As a result, Malaria Eradication Office staff working in Kailali district in the mid‐1960s explicitly targeted villages for chemical treatment, and worked with villagers to manage malaria in domesticated spaces. Keeping up with the growth of villages, as well as the increasing presence of “illegal” settlements and impromptu homesteads within the region from the 1960s onward, caused endless trouble for sprayers and project managers working to end cases of malaria transmission within the district. Consequently, domesticity for Farwest Tarai settlers arose in a malarial context, albeit one that was rapidly changing.

Drawing from my ongoing dissertation research in eastern Kailali, the paper will examine the interplay between the performance of malaria eradication labor in the 1960s, the creation of domestic space, and the configuration of the Farwest Tarai as a productive, hospitable, agricultural region for non‐Tarai origin peoples. At the heart of my analysis will be a juxtaposition of the experiences of two malaria eradication workers operating in eastern Kailali—one a Bahun field supervisor and trainer from Dang, the other a local‐born Dangaura Tharu foreman. Connected to their accounts are the practices of eastern Kailali residents who worked to clear jungles, make fields, build homes, and form social relations amongst themselves and the Tarai environment. Through an intimate portrayal of the process of unmaking a malarial landscape, the paper will examine how environmental change relates to the formation of settler societies, linking the dynamics of the Farwest Tarai to theories of settlerism and environment—especially as they play out in the Global South.

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Paper 3: Biological Statehood: Sickle Cell Disease & Citizenship in Contemporary Nepal
Priyankar Bahadur Chand
, Possible Health Nepal

Abstract: This essay is the first qualitative undertaking to study sickle cell disease (SCD) in Nepal and aims to analyze how diseases have played an important role in defining state‐society relation particularly in Nepal’s Tarai. While rooting this essay in the long trajectory of the Tarai’s relationship with malaria; it simultaneously focuses on genetic blood disorders that have been known to render some form of immunity to malaria, namely SCD. In Nepal, according to recent statistics, SCD is only seen in the Tharus of the western Tarai.

Even though SCD has been subject to molecular, genetic research internationally since the 1940s, the Government of Nepal released its first policy concerning the disease in 2013. Within the past four years, SCD has been transformed from being a nameless, misdiagnosed disorder into a “new” priority for the Government of Nepal. Currently, Nepali citizens afflicted by SCD are entitled to approximately $1,000 worth of free treatment services from designated governmental hospitals. Such a practice of providing services through differentiated citizenship based on a biological condition has been termed as biological citizenship. In Nepal, the provision of biological citizenship vis‐à‐vis the Disadvantaged Citizen’s Medicine and Treatment Fund for SCD has been subsumed into the ongoing debate concerning federalism and the recognition of indigenous groups in the Tharu heartlands of the Tarai.

SCD provides a theoretical framework by which to bridge the notion of biological citizenship with that of federalism and ethnicity in contemporary Nepali politics; this interplay is what I term as “biological statehood.” Diseases in post‐monarchic Nepal also serve as content for state recognition by which to contest as well as to transform the dialectics between citizenship and statehood. Ultimately, a disease is not just constructed through increasing biomedical knowledge, but rather the social and political environment within which the disease is discovered also has profound consequences on its visibility, what can be done about it, and what it can do.

Key words: sickle cell disease, biological citizenship, federalism, Tharu, Nepal

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Panel 2: Intermarriage in Nepal
Panel Convener: Claire Martinus, Lecturer, University of Lille 3, France
Proposed Chair and Discussant: TBD

Panel Abstract: In this panel we explore issues surrounding matrimonial practices in Nepal, with a specific focus on intermarriage. We define the concept of “intermarriage” broadly, as marriage occurring between two individuals who belong to or descend from distinct and separate castes, ethnic groups, faiths, or linguistic communities. Although intermarriage is legal and increasingly common in Nepalese society, it is still a major source of misunderstanding, discrimination, and violence.

In this panel, questions to address may include the following: what is intermarriage in Nepal? Does intermarriage differ in urban and rural areas? How have matrimonial rules changed in Nepal? Do marriage rituals change in the case of intermarriage? How does the legal and political context influence practices of intermarriage? What are the representations of love in couples that are in intermarriage? To what extent are globalisation and the products of media an influence over the development of intermarriage? How should we analyze matrimonial practices in Nepal in the current era of globalization? How do castes and ethnic groups influence the marriage system? What is the impact of intermarriage on inter- and intra-generational relationships of women?

We aim to explore the following fields:

– Historical review
– Political and legal context
– Caste and class
– Media
– Gender
– Religious context
– Psychological essentialism and the psychology of caste
– Untouchability in intercaste marriage

Ivan Deschenaux will focus on marriage between Dalits and non-Dalits, and on the stigma of untouchability within such marriages. Bimla Kumari Gurung will pay more attention to the the family relations- particular to inter and intra generational relations. Claire Martinus will focus on matrimonial practices in a urban context of mixity.

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Paper 1: Does Intercaste Marriage Change the Way in which People Think About Caste?
Ivan Deschenaux
, PhD Candidate, London School of Economics, UK

Abstract: This paper is an inquiry into the psychology of caste and identity in Nepal. It asks whether intercaste marriage can change the way in which people think of caste, and if so, how and to what extent. A central matter of scrutiny in the paper is whether people who enter intercaste marriages are thought, by themselves or by others, to thereby change the caste which they belong to.

The vast majority of people in Nepal view caste and ethnicity as categories or properties which are acquired at birth and which remain stable throughout the life course. This way of thinking is remarkably in line with ‘psychological essentialism’, a cognitive bias well-known among psychologists and which has more recently come under anthropological scrutiny.

Endogamy is believed to play a central role in psychological essentialism. Thus, it is argued that rigid and immutable construals of identity most readily emerge and most reliably persist in societies where members of different groups do not marry each other, thereby avoiding ‘mixing’. If this description holds true for caste, several questions arise when considering intercaste marriage: what happens for non-endogamous couples? Do they, so to speak, ‘escape’ or ‘renounce’ essentialist construals of caste? If this is not the case, does each partner ‘keep’ the caste they had before the marriage? Does the caste of one partner change, and if so, whose? Is it always, as patrilineality would suggest, the woman’s caste that must change? What exceptions to this patrilineal ‘rule’ are there in the case of intercaste marriage between Dalits and non-Dalits?

Anthropologists have noted dramatic shifts in marital practices in Nepal, yet the specific cases of intercaste and interethnic marriages remain understudied. This paper focuses specifically on marriages between Dalit and non-Dalit people, by far the most controversial kind of marriage in Nepal because of the ongoing stigma of untouchability associated with Dalits. The paper will show that, while a small number of people are promoting ‘mixing’ through exogamy in Nepal, such as the political actors behind the policy whereby NRs. 100’000 is offered to newly-wed Dalit/non-Dalit inter-caste couples, the idea of ‘mixing’ and the notion that one might be of ‘mixed identity’ is still mostly absent in the general population, especially in rural parts of the country. Surprisingly perhaps, this notion also seems foreign to many people themselves in intercaste marriages.

The paper is based on observations and interviews conducted and collected during 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the hills of East Nepal, where I lived with a Bishwokarma family.

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Paper 2: Intermarriages and Generational Relations: A Sociological Study in Kathmandu Valley
Bimla Kumari Gurung,
PhD Candidate, Gurunanak Dev University, Amritsar, India

Abstract: Marriage is one of the universal social institutions found in every society. It establishes not only conjugal relations between husband and wife, but also establishes relations between families. The population of Nepal consists of numerous racial, cultural, religious and linguistic groups who follow their own patterns of marriage. Since Nepal was a Hindu state before the Jana Andolan (People’s Movement II) of 2006, Hindu religion has a high place in its deep-rooted traditional customs, and shapes the ideal nature of marital relationships. Hindu doctrine prohibits youth participation in mate selection, encouraging instead early marriage arranged by the parents. Other aspects of Hinduism also prohibit divorce, inter-caste marriage and widow remarriage. In Nepal, endogamy was an established practice which limited the field of mate selection. We can actually consider that Nepal is undergoing social and economic change, such as an increase in education, a development of mass media, improved transport and communication systems, and exposure to the outside world. These social changes have dramatic impacts on the family, individual choices in marriage behavior related to participation in spouse choice, intermarriages and divorce. In a way, these changes have promoted intermarriages, which in turn have affected the traditional structures of the family. The traditional family in Nepal is, characteristically, the patriarchal joint family. In this model, it is the responsibility of the family members to arrange marriages for their younger relatives. But the shift from arranged marriage to self choice marriage has brought changes in both inter- and intra-generational relations. So the proposed study was undertaken to analyse the generational relations of women in intermarriage in Nepalese society.

As I am a PhD candidate, during my literature review on intermarriage from different perspectives, I found that most of the literature deals with intermarriages from a community and societal perspective. My interest was to find out about the family relations of intermarried women, with a particular focus on inter- and intra-generational relations. By “inter-generational”, in the study, I mean relations of intermarried women with their parents and parents in-laws. Moreover, “intra-generational” refers to relations with one’s siblings and siblings in-law. In arranged or endogamous marriages, a spouse is chosen by the family members on the basis of caste, economic status of the family etc. On the other hand, when individuals choose their own partners, the choice is often based on love, affection and personal compatibility. So it is assumed that marriages in which partners are chosen by the family members will have stronger generational relations, while the opposite will be true in intermarriages. Thus, the study aims to answer the following research questions:

1. What is intermarriage?
2. Who are the women involved in intermarriages?
3. What kind of intermarriages takes place in Nepal?
4. How are the inter- and intra-generational relations of intermarried women best described?

Methodology is a method or mode of collecting data for the study to be undertaken. The present study is descriptive in nature and has been conducted in the city of Kathmandu. The universe of the study was women who are involved in intermarriages. For the purpose of this study, women who are intermarried were selected by simple random method. Data were collected by using an interview schedule. After the data collection, the schedule was edited, the code design was prepared and codes were transferred to coding sheets. Data analyzing is under process and will be added in the main paper.

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Paper 3: Castes Mixture and Marriage in the Capital City of an Ancient Hindu Kingdom. A Study of the Transformations of Matrimonial Practices in Nepal
Claire Martinus,
Lecturer, University of Lille 3, France

Abstract: This presentation proposes to shine light on the anthropology of kinship in Nepal in a globalised context, with a specific focus on inter-caste, inter-ethnic or inter-religious marriages. Our research object, “the transformations of the matrimonial practices of urbanized populations in Nepal”, falls within the wider field of marriage or alliance. Literature is abundant on this subject and scholarly references relating to ancient as well as contemporary traditions abound, but the analysis undertaken here is resolutely directed towards understanding the field as it presents itself. Classical anthropological texts describe the matrimonial practices of Nepal as strictly following the principles of endogamy of caste or exogamy of clans in ethnic groups. This essentialist readings of the kinship system, which focuses on the perpetuation of the caste system or on the elementary structures of kinship in ethnic groups, is discussed throughout this papers in many aspects.

This research was carried out using a simultaneously ethnographic, ethnological and anthropological approach. Using a method based on ‘grounded theory’, the issue was addressed through multiple research methods, such as participant observation, undertaking interviews with couples that are engaged in intermarriage, or through the analysis of data concerning court marriage collected at the Court District of Kathmandu.

This paper presents how the observation of intermarriages in Kathmandu has allowed to discover a theory that can explain the transformation of matrimonial practices in Nepal, by exploring many aspects such as the history, the political, social, economic and religious context.

Desire in love, physical and mental agreement, satisfaction of personal pleasure but also of vital economic needs: these are generally the elements that the couples interviewed for this survey on intermarriage put forth to explain their choice of spouse. All this remains that love is not at random, even for couples who have freely chosen each other in Nepal: the observations show that spouses often choose each other within similar groups (homogamous) in terms of material wealth, formal education and social prestige.

Belonging to the new Nepalese middle class, which is not a homogeneous entity, is somewhat reassuring for a wide variety of social groups that are affected by the transformations of social dynamics, even if there is no genuine class reality: people, knowing that they no longer obey the traditional habits and no longer belong to the ‘true’ traditional communities, can nevertheless imagine that they are part of a kind of middle class. In terms of choice of spouse, this analytic framework shows that there is a gradual substitution of private arrangements, within the framework of domestic groups, castes and clan groups, in favour of ‘public’ arrangements of marriages, in the framework of, for example, ‘secularised’ and commercial agencies (like marriage agencies or wedding planners). This leads us to reconsider the place of the couple and of love in Nepalese marriage. The practices of mixed couples, which are often defined as ‘love marriages’, are often based on a reification of cultural or religious elements, but also on a form of rupture and invention of new ways of defining oneself.

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Panel 3: Dalits in a Changing Society
Panel Convener(s): David Gellner, Professor of Social Anthropology and Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford, UK; Krishna Adhikari, Research Fellow and Co. Investigator, ESRC funded research project Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford; and Arjun Bahadur B.K., Independent Researcher
Proposed Chair: David Gellner, Professor of Social Anthropology and Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford, UK
Proposed Discussant: TBD

Panel Abstract: The caste system, which once ordered social groups in a legally enforced hierarchy through the Muluki Ain or Country Law Code of 1854, continues to be central to the operation of Nepali society. According to the census of 2011, there are 125 ethnic and caste groups in Nepal (up from 103 in 2001). Dalits, who once were regarded as untouchable and in the past mostly engaged in patron-client-based occupations, according to the 2011 census comprise 13.6% of the total population (activists claim this is a significant underestimate).

Nepal’s cities, towns, and villages have undergone huge changes in the last twenty years. The very distinction between urban and rural has, many argue, begun to break down. Recent local government reorganization has accelerated this process by reclassifying many places as urban. Circular, permanent, and semi-permanent migration—whether to the Gulf, to India, to cities, or to the plains—have changed the face of many villages. Similarly, Nepal has gone through tremendous political changes, acknowledging past injustices to Dalits and other disadvantaged groups, and adopting policies for affirmative action. We are interested to see what these social, economic, and political changes mean for Dalits today.

How are inter-caste relations changing? What contemporary patterns of patronage can be discerned? Do livelihood strategies implicate other castes or not? What impact have migration and remittances had on everyday living? Have Kathmandu-centred identity politics been taken up at the village level? What links do village people have with activists in town? Are reservations and other government facilities having an effect in villages?

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Paper 1: International Labour Migration from Nepal and Changing Caste-based Institutions and Inter-caste Relations
Krishna P. Adhikari, Research Fellow and Co. Investigator, ESRC funded research project Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford; David N. Gellner, Professor of Social Anthropology and Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford; and Arjun Bahadur B.K., Independent Researcher

Abstract: Over the past decade international labour migration from Nepal to the Middle East and Malaysia has increased significantly. The number of Dalit migrants is also rising rapidly. A large number of studies have been conducted focusing on the economic impacts of international labour migration from Nepal. So far research has not looked at inter-caste relations, and in particular at old institutions of patron-client (balighare) exchanges, and how economic and socio-cultural relations may be changing as a result of labour migration. Based on household and individual surveys and in-depth ethnography, this paper seeks to explore some of these issues.

As a part of the ESRC-funded project ‘Caste, Class and Culture: Changing Bahun and Dalit Identities in Nepal’ (ES/L00240X/1), data was collected in 2015–16 from a census of 575 households, and in-depth survey from 1,211 individuals. Data was collected in eight neighbouring villages in Kaski district, as well as in migration destinations both in Nepal and abroad. The caste groups included in the study are both non-Dalits (priestly and non-priestly Brahmans, Chhetris, and Gurungs) and Dalits (Kami, Damai, and Sarki). 219 individuals (about half of them Dalits) included in the survey are either currently working in the Middle East or Malaysia or are returnees.

The preliminary results from the study show that most of the patron-client-based balighare links have either been abandoned or transformed to a large extent. Some old caste-based taboos have been broken and roles redefined. While some traditional non-cash-based occupations have been completely abandoned or are practised to a lesser extent, others have adapted to cash and market-based economy. Due to insufficient labour, farming is in decline. With respect to commensality, more than four in five respondents have/had Dalit (or non-Dalit) work or house-mates in the country of their destination. Except for a few cases, caste practices (such as untouchability) did not become a barrier for their commensality. However, over half of them believe that they could/cannot continue the same level of relations in the private domain when they return to Nepal.

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Paper 2: Being, Becoming, Belonging: The Paradox of Identity and Mental Suffering among Nepal’s Dalits
Steve Folmar, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology Wake Forest University. Winston Salem, North Carolina, USA

Abstract: To research and write about Nepal’s Dalits is an academic challenge and personal frustration. The project demands much in the way of getting one’s “voice” heard, a task that also confronts Dalit people themselves. While there might appear to be attention paid to the variety of Dalit causes, the causes, goals and associated traits and processes are more often put forth by more powerful people than Dalits themselves, leaving their opinions unheard, ignored, dismissed and misinterpreted. Why is it the case that in a time when transitions from old to new, local to global, and an ideology of hierarchy to one of equality, Dalits still struggle for clear recognition that they are not only unequal to others but that their inferior status is denied? It is not so important that these and a plethora of similar, related questions consume me. But it is important that they matter to Dalits at all levels and in all circumstances.

At a time when anthropologists and other social scientists are concerned with deep questions related to being or becoming a member of an identity group and understanding what it means to belong to one, these questions grow ever much more elusive when attempting to understand these mental/emotional processes for Dalits. Given their simultaneously amorphous and clear status – we debate about who exactly is a Dalit but (should) understand that a Dalit is clearly confronted with abject inferiority relative to others – Dalits find themselves in social, political and economic statuses that abound with paradox, which propels them toward a seemingly perpetual liminal status. As many a Dalit might say, “Ke garne, ta?”

The number of possible answers might be unwieldy but I begin with the somewhat scientific response that before we know what to do, we need to know what we are dealing with. The descriptive ethnography of past generations of anthropologists largely bypassed Nepal’s Dalits. So did any serious historical inquiry. Until recently, Dalits failed to register on the radar screens of political science, environmental science, medical science and so on. Historically lacking access to education meant that Dalits were also barred from the social, political and economic positions from which they could gain visibility.

In this paper, I trace some links between these ambivalences and the fluid historical and situational relationship between mental suffering and being of (also becoming and belonging to) Dalit identity. I further explore how disruptive processes, like earthquakes, affect that relationship by comparing the situation for Dalits in Lamjung to their High Caste and Gurung counterparts. I will draw on extensive qualitative and quantitative data collected from two NSF-funded projects stretching from 2012 to 2015, illustrating to some degree the changing nature of mental suffering and the social, political and economic cauldron of forces that aid in explaining mental health among Nepal’s Dalits.

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Paper 3: Did the Earthquake and Earthquake Relief have a Differential Impact on Lower Caste Groups? A Case Study of Sindhupalchok District, Nepal
Richard Bownas, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and International Affairs, University of Northern Colorado, USA; Ratna Bishokarma, MPhil, Sociology, Tribhuvan University, Nepal

Abstract: When the earthquakes of 2015 struck, Sindhupalchok was one of the harder hit districts of Nepal. The earthquake of April 25, 2015(7.8 magnitude) and particularly the aftershock of May 12, 2015 (7.3 magnitude) killed approximately 3500 people in the district (out of a national total of around 9,000) and caused injury, loss of livelihood and destruction of property to tens of thousands more.

This study focuses primarily on the medium-term relief and redevelopment efforts that followed the earthquake and on the socio-economic changes which accompanied those efforts. Disasters are not disasters for everyone, but rather create winners and losers, accentuating inequalities in some areas and (more rarely) opening up niches of activity for some who had been excluded. This study illuminates this process by looking in detail at who have been the winners and losers in Sindhupalchok District in the period to date. The study examines the quantity and quality of relief and development programs, changes in institutions concerned with rural development, and new economic opportunity structures since the Earthquake, all with respect to how these changes affected castes and classes differently.

For the study we conducted interviews with around 40 households (around 80 individuals in total) in the three constituencies of Sindhupalchok, including rural, urban and semi-urban areas. We tried to find representative samples of Dalits and other castes (with an emphasis on Dalit and Janajati respondents). We also interviewed elites in the district, including NGO/INGO managers, journalists, government officers and business people.

The study has two main findings, one short-term and the other concerning longer-term trends. In the immediate period we found that caste discrimination, where it occurred was mainly of an indirect nature, with Dalits and certain Janajati groups being excluded from the development resources (or at least occupationally appropriate resources) that were available after the earthquake due to lack of networking capacity with those in charge of relief (both in government and NGOs). The exception that proved the rule was in one VDC with a long history of caste-based activism, where networks enabled Dalits to access occupationally relevant livelihood training funds. The more enduring change is in the way the earthquake has accelerated class differentiation in the district – through the rapid growth of NGOs, construction work, the emptying out and impoverishment of remoter villages and a boom in the hotel and tourist industries (to accommodate middle-class and higher-caste NGO workers). This class differentiation has benefited some Dalits who have been able to take the opportunity to upgrade traditional skills and participate in construction, but others, dependent on patronage or living in remoter areas, are likely to be excluded.

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Panel 4: Sexing the State: Negotiating Sexual Politics in Naya Nepal
Panel Convener: Kumud Rana, PhD Candidate, University of Glasgow, UK
Proposed Chair: Laura Kunreuther, Director, Anthropology, Bard College, New York
Proposed Discussant: TBD

Panel Abstract: The three papers in this panel discuss sexual politics in Nepal at three levels of analysis; the state, the social and the individual. The first paper by Kumud Rana, interrogates state-centered activism through a case-study of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) movement in Nepal. The paper shows how this movement is shaped not only by national processes but also through opportunities and constraints in relation to Nepal’s geopolitical position, and its embeddedness in transnational solidarity networks. The second paper by Sarah Rich-Zendel looks at sexual politics through the lens of social institutions: media, health and education. By decentering the state, her paper shows how these institutions play a critical role in supporting, contesting, and subverting sexual rights. The final paper by Shubha Kayastha looks at sexual politics through the individual experiences of women with physical disabilities in Nepal. This paper provides intimate insight into this often invisible and marginalized group of people within the sexual rights discourse through an analysis of their lived sexual experiences. Together, these three papers analyse the varied landscapes of sexual politics in Nepal and how sexual rights debates play out in this period of intense political transformation.

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Paper 1: Queer Dissidence in Times of Revolution
Kumud Rana,
PhD Candidate, University of Glasgow, UK

Abstract: This paper focuses on queer politics within South Asia with a case study of Nepal and its legal recognition of a ‘third gender’ category in 2007 and the constitutional protection of the rights of ‘gender and sexual minorities’ in 2015, both occurring within Nepal’s turbulent transition from a Hindu monarchy to a federal democratic republic. The understanding of a third gender complicates a largely Western understanding of the binary of gender by including a wider range of identifications and experiences of transgression that might go beyond the ambit of gender and/or sexuality. However, within the context of intensifying global interconnectedness as well as stratification, the category continues to resist as well as embrace what can be understood as global framings of alternative sexualities.

This paper will highlight these complexities by analysing movement framing and discourses around identities amongst activists within the broader LGBT movement in Nepal. The paper will add to literature on social movements and LGBTQI politics by taking a multi-level approach to understanding how seemingly indigenous queer identities are compounded of complex relationships between the local, the national and the international. Using in-depth interviews with activists working on LGBTI rights, the paper will further show how the movement has negotiated contestations around identities and with what consequences, and how it might continue to do so given the challenges and opportunities posed by regional and global queer politics.

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Paper 2: Beyond the State: Social Institutions and the Transformation of Sexual Norms in Nepal
Sarah Rich-Zendel,
PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, Ontario

Abstract: In Nepal, a landmark supreme court case in 2007 ushered in a decade of sexual justice reform that culminated in the 2015 constitutional protection for the rights of gender and sexual minorities. However, in a demonstration of the Nepali state’s completely incoherent position on sexual justice, the same document denies women equal access to citizenship and lacks a provision that guarantees same-sex couples and third gender persons equal marriage rights; ultimately reinforcing a patriarchal and heteronormative definition of the family.

The failure to achieve substantive constitutional recognition marks a serious setback for predominantly state-targeted LGBTI activism. It is also an invitation to revisit the merits of state-centred activism and corresponding sexual identity-based rhetoric as a tool for sexual justice in the context of increasing geopolitical polarization over sexual rights (Weiss & Bosia, 2013; Symons & Altman, 2015).

This paper aims to decentre the state and state-targeted activism by looking at the role of social institutions (media, education, and health) in the transmission of sexual norms in Nepal. Based on qualitative interviews, this paper argues that representatives of these social institutions play a critical role in constituting, contesting and, subverting sexual justice in ways that are largely disconnected from current state-centred sexual justice activism. The paper identifies how social institutions transmit sexual norms and the areas where this transmission may correspond or compete with the advancement of sexual justice. The aim of this paper is to provide a basis upon which “alternatives to state-centred configurations of [sexual] justice” can be developed in the context of a deeply ambivalent state (Lind & Keating, 2013).

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Paper 3: Women with Physical Disability within the Sexual Rights Discourse in Nepal
Shubha Kayastha, MA, Gender Studies, Tribhuvan University, Nepal

Abstract: This study explores the realities of heterosexual women with physical disabilities (WWPD) related to their sexuality, and sexual and reproductive health (SRH). It aims to place the experiences of WWPD in the cultural context of Nepal where social norms and values around marriage, childbirth and fulfilling ‘duties of daughter-in-law’ remain powerful institutions when it comes to regulating a woman’s sexual life. The study also links the SRH experiences of WWPD to their own perceptions of body image and sexual self-esteem.

The study finds that WWPD are largely excluded from these social institutions and receive little or no information and education on sexual and reproductive health and on sexuality. Using a rights-based approach to sexual and reproductive health, the study corresponds to other research that finds Nepal’s public health discourse lacking when it comes to pregnancy, childbirth, STIs and/or family planning. As such, WWPD face a double burden because their disability erases them from an already limited approach to sexual and reproductive health. Given this double burden, the study aims to articulate the challenges WWPD face while accessing SRH services, dating and finding a partner, and their interpretations of sexual pleasure and suggests WWPD-friendly approaches to SRH based on addressing these challenges.

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Panel 5: Public Finance Dynamics in School Education in Nepal
Panel Convener:
Pramod Bhatta, Martin Chautari
Proposed Chair: TBD
Proposed Discussant: TBD

Panel Abstract: The education sector in Nepal has gone through significant policy reforms in the recent years. School education also receives the largest government and donor budgetary allocations. The papers in this panel investigates the public finance dynamics in school education to enable better grounded understandings of public policy-making and implementation in countries undergoing transitions such as Nepal. The papers in this panel will locate public finance dynamics in school education within the larger socio-political context that is shaped by distinct ideologies, power relations and a series of interconnected networks of relationships. How do variously positioned social actors make meaning of public policy such as school education? What dynamics and strategies do they employ to manage the finances around school education? Are there any specific social relations in which they engage in order to facilitate these processes? This panel investigates the public finance dynamics in and around school education in order to understandideologies, social practices, power relations and networks within which public education governance are embedded.

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Paper 1: ‘Communityization’ of Public Schools and the Realities of ‘free’ Education in Nepal
Pramod Bhatta,
Senior Researcher, Martin Chautari, Nepal

Abstract: This paper will explore the interrelationships between state financing of education, community schooling and the private costs of public education in order to understand the Nepali state’s commitment to a free and universal school education. In other words, it will focus on the dialectics of the community management of school education amidst the rhetoric of state financing of public education. Historically, the majority of public schools have been established and operated by communities, a trend that continues till date, albeit with some setbacks in the 1970s. At the same time, the state has increased its capability to support public education, through constitutional commitments to free basic (and secondary) education, and by implementing a number of large scale education reforms since the early 1990s. However, the state has been short of fully funding (and managing) public education, a phenomenon that is particular to the education sector. In such dualism, what does free education mean and how does this relate to the role of the state and the community in providing free education? The paper will derive from an ongoing research using a multi-method approach that includes a macro analysis of state financing of school education, coupled with case studies of various types of community schools (old vs new; successful vs not so successful in SLC; fully state subsidized vs partially subsidized, etc) to understand the dynamics of resource flows and usages associated with public education in Nepal.

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Paper 2: Becoming ‘eligible’: Documents, Intermediary Actors, and the State in Education Scholarship Programmes
Uma Pradhan,
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Education Anthropology, Aarhus University, Denmark

Abstract: Persistent inequality in education has been one of the pressing political and moral challenges in Nepal. As a response to this, there have been several efforts to introduce social justice, affirmative action, and equity measures in the implementation of education policy. Education scholarship programmes for needy and deserving students is one of such programmes. Due to the ‘targeted’ nature of these programmes, scholarship recipients are identified based on their ‘need’, both socioeconomic inequality and cultural marginalization. Drawing on the ethnographic fieldwork of scholarship distribution process, this paper will highlight the characteristics of dynamics that is generated in this context. The focus of this paper is on the processes, strategies, and social relations through which people encounter the state and get access to education programmes that are meant to ensure social justice and equality. The paper argues that the rules, practices and effects of the state-sponsored education initiatives could form the basic tools for citizen engagement with the state. In the targeted policies, such as Scholarship Programmes, the procedures such as getting on the list, obtaining recommendation from the local authority etc. and interaction with various other intermediary actors during this process can impact the ways in which state is understood and interpreted in everyday lives.

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Paper 3: The Use and Misuse of State Resources in Nepal’s Public Schools
Shak B. Budhathoki, Associate Researcher, Martin Chautari, Nepal

Abstract: The Government of Nepal continues to allocate the largest share of the national annual budget for the education sector. At the same time, the Commission for the Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) work as watchdogs for the public sector governance to contribute for transparency and accountability by closely monitoring how and whether the public funds have been used as envisaged at the time of allocation. Against this backdrop, this paper asks: how do the annual reports of the CIAA and OAG report about the flow and use of public finances in the education sector, especially in school education? How do they indicate about the extent and possibility of leakage of the public finance and what is their pattern? What does it tell about the flow and usage of public funds in public sector governance in Nepal? The paper will draw on a content analysis of the annual reports of the OAG and the CIAA. The paper is expected to shed further light on the inherent contradictions between the intended and actual usages of public finance in Nepal’s education sector, including a critique of the decentralization of education financing in Nepal.

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Panel 6: Securing the Status quo: Donors, Development and Reconstruction in Post-war Nepal
Panel Convener: Seira Tamang, Independent Researcher
Proposed Chair: TBD
Proposed Discussant: Bhaskar Gautam, Independent Researcher

Panel Abstract: This panel analyses post-war Nepal from a broadly political, economic and social perspective to construct a holistic understanding of the past decade of upheaval and change. It focuses on the alliances between international donors and national elites, and the forms of development, reconstruction and humanitarianism that claim to rebuild the state and secure new forms of state-citizen relations. Contrary to such assertions, the papers reveal how these interventions have instead served to preserve the status quo, and enable the re-emergence and dominance of traditionalist politics. For those who have suffered the brunt of the war and earthquakes, the last decade has meant little in terms of meaningful political and socio-economic change.

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Paper 1: Enabling ‘business as usual’: Donors and Peacebuilding in Nepal Post 2006
Seira Tamang, Independent Researcher

Abstract: Political culture, corruption, the feudal state and other specifically ‘Nepali’ characteristics form key cornerstones of analyses examining the return to traditionalist politics in post-2006 Nepal. The reassertion of the political right has been expressed not least in the 2015 Constitution, the intransigence of the political elites in response to the Madhesi uprisings, the glaring lack of accountability with respect to relief and reconstruction following the earthquakes and the ignoring of the constitutional provisions on inclusion by non-other than the Judicial Council headed by the chief justice while nominating 80 judges for the high courts.

Obscured in such accounts, however, is the role of international development actors and the international development agenda – as deployed during the Maoist’s 10-year civil war, and as deployed for peacebuilding – in reinforcing status-quoist politics. By first briefly discussing how international development agencies framed ‘the Maoist conflict’ to carry on with ‘business as usual,’ this paper argues that the naming and framing of the conflict and “post-conflict” by these actors has promoted the idea that mainstream development was, and is, the panacea to political problems. Apart from ignoring the complexities and contradictions of post-war state-building and development in Nepal, it has also contributed to the creation of an enabling environment for a return to conservatism and of conservative forces. The paper includes analyses of prominent donor frameworks post-2006, including the Nepal Peace and Development Strategy 2010-2015, and portrayals of Nepal’s transition to peace. Concluding remarks point to the manner in which ‘development’ is often portrayed as a solution, whereas in fact the discourse/rhetoric and practice of development is imbricated in the restructuring of the elite-centred post 2006 Nepali state.

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Paper 3: Remote Response: International Humanitarianism and Nepal’s 2015 Earthquakes
James Sharrock, Independent Researcher

Abstract: This paper will focus on analysing the responses of UN agencies and international NGOs to the 2015 Nepal earthquakes. This will include discussion of how international relief was carried out, the ways in which aid programmes drew on new humanitarian practices and how international responses intersected with and legitimised Nepal Government responses. The paper argues that in order to understand the failures of the earthquake response we need to understand how humanitarian action has been changing into a deeper ‘remoteness’ that stresses technological innovation, self-resiliency and, in the context of disaster response, ‘owner-driven’ reconstruction. In addition, the paper argues that these new forms of humanitarianism were particularly vulnerable to old forms of manipulation and capture by a resilient Nepali state, intent on returning to development-as-usual. By discussing needs assessments, the housing reconstruction programme, and the use of cash transfers, the paper shows how both international humanitarian and national government responses together produced failure. The paper concludes by stressing the need for greater critical engagement with international humanitarian organisations in Nepal and the reconstruction agenda as a necessary part of ‘doing something’ after the 2015 earthquakes.

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Local Faces and Places: Tourist Art and Representational Practices of Culture and Identity in Darjeeling Hills
Agastaya Thapa, PhD Candidate, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

Abstract: Local scroll art consists of hand-painted or embroidered portraits and landscape scenes of Darjeeling usually rendered on black cloth. They are easily portable for tourist consumption. The local scroll art has over the years undergone much reconstruction, but the idiom in terms of the subject-matter and form is always about the representation of hill peoples, rendered on cloth, black cloth being the convention. Many other “traditions” of the local scroll art has emerged, and accordingly new nominations have been proffered. It is also referred to as tapeta painting,[1] black cloth painting, Ava Devi painting, alongside scroll art painting. The nineteenth century colonial photographs provide powerful frames for the study of these artefacts in such a way that “tradition” in these arts may actually refer to or be constituted by colonial photography, particularly the ethnographic portraits of the native “types” like Lepcha girl or Tibetan man. Within the visual culture of the Darjeeling hills, one finds an inter-ocular circuit within which certain paradigms are established like the popular boju or ‘grandmother’ figure. The boju’s face is etched with monumental fine lines, each wrinkle depicted as realistically as possible in painting or needlework, as if in a bid to outdo photography. These forms of self-image that the communities in the hill possess and perpetuate have much to do with the colonial past that has significant bearings on the present. Nevertheless, I will demonstrate that the tourist art and other visual artefacts from the hills do much more than feed into the tourism industry, as they perpetuate and consolidate a visual lingua franca by which a viable cultural and political identity for the people get fashioned. Nelson Graburn reminds us that the makers of these artefacts do not only pay heed to the whims of the buyers, but they also imbue these works with values that are important to them.[2] Therefore, it will be immensely important to study these paintings and their archetypes in terms of the meanings and value they accrue and radiate in terms of identity formation and recognition. An investigation into how they contribute to the discourse on ethnicity and representation in visual culture has to be made, especially in parallel with the Gorkhaland Movement- the ongoing struggle for the ethnically Nepalese population in India for political recognition and identity in the national discourse. Therefore, the overarching concern in this study will be an exploration of these postcolonial subjects in the twenty-first century who are looped into such circuits of representation. By treating the question of identity as contingent and ‘in process,’ I will be establishing time, space, people and institutions as circuits within which practices of representations are constituted and contested.

[1] The term tapetacould be a Nepali corruption of the English word ‘taffeta’ considering the paintings are made on cloth.
[2] Nelson H HGraburn, “Introduction” in Ethnic and Tourist Arts: Cultural Expressions from the Fourth World, ed. Nelson H.H. Graburn (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976) 26.

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22 Houses Near the River: Reflections on Reconstruction, Youth and Home
Andrew Haxby, MI. PhD candidate in Anthropology, University of Michigan

Abstract: In the days following the great Nepal earthquake of 2015, there arose a massive grassroots movement in Kathmandu as residents gathered relief materials to send to damaged rural areas. Though this movement attracted people of all ages, there was noticeable overrepresentation of young Nepalis, many of whom had moved to Kathmandu and were now sending tarps, food and medicine back to their own destroyed villages, altruistic actions that also brought to the fore questions of their own identity, class, obligation and home. This paper follows the story of one such youth, a young Tamang man who in the months after the earthquake, when much of this initial grassroots work had already ended, raised over 80,000 USD with his father from foreign donors, and led a reconstruction project in the village he had left when he was ten years old. Thrust into a leadership position after having kept only a tenuous connection to the village through his early adult life, this man was mediating conflicts and negotiating political connections in an area that was both his home and his past, while also wrestling with his role in his own family. This paper explores the complicated questions of identity this labor created, as well as the unique intersections between mobility and home that arose in the earthquake’s aftermath. In doing so, it asks how the earthquake, which interrupted the long-term plans and dreams of so many families, might have also created an opening for the youth to assert themselves socially and politically, and what the consequences of this have been.

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Social Stratification and Dalit Leadership in Nepal
Arjun Bahadur BK.,
Independent Researcher

Abstract: Caste-based social stratification has placed Dalits in the lowest stratum of society and hence denied their involvement, as ‘Untouchables’, in every aspect of life in Nepal. The repercussion of the age-old system is ultimately reflected in the social and political leadership as well. The state and the political parties adopted inclusive and participatory democracy quite recently especially in the wake of the Second People’s Movement of 2006. However, the social unacceptability of Dalits ultimately has led to a deficit of Dalit leadership in both social and political domains.

Primarily, the implementation of inclusion is not smoothly practised due to reluctance to cooperate by ‘high-caste’ and ethnic groups dominating the decision-making posts. Members of marginal communities, especially Dalit leaders, are highly likely to get denied and unaccepted in both national and local election, which causes low representation. The issue of the denial of Dalit leadership is often raised by academicians, scholars, and the civil society community. As the issue is not systematically explored and studied, this paper will examine how Dalits are denied leadership roles, especially at the nomination stage of the election process, which then leads to their exclusion from national and local elections and therefore from other important bodies of government. The research methodology is largely qualitative, and the basic source of data are collected in the course of field work from November 2015 to March 2016 in a village of Kaski district, Nepal. These data will be supplemented with some in-depth interviews with four national and four local-level leaders of major political parties and others representing diverse, regions, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds. The collected data would be transcribed, coded, categorized by theme, and analyzed. The purpose of the study is to identify the gap and discrepancies between policy and practice of inclusion of the state and political party policy and practice based on the experience of Dalit leaders.

Key words: Dalits, social stratification, exclusion, inclusion, unacceptability, representation

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Charismatic Mediumship and Traditional Priesthood: Possession in Himalayan Hinduism
Asaf Sharabi,
Peres Academic Center, Israel; Hagar Shalev, PhD Candidate, Asian Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Abstract: In the Indian Himalayas, mediums who operate as channels through which deities can communicate with their devotees, function alongside priests who serve local deities. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, the lecture will focus on the question of what is the relation between these two religious roles? We will describe the diverse functions of the religious priests and mediums who serve the deity Mahāsū and see how they are linked to different sources of authority – traditional and charismatic. Since the position of priests is inherited, in order to be a priest one has to be born to a family of Brahmin priests. Mediums, on the other hand, do not need to be born to a family of mediums, because one becomes a medium and sustains his mediumship based on one’s own merit or charisma.

The priests and mediums also differ in their caste background. While the priests are Brahmins, almost all the mediums of Mahāsū are Rajput. Unlike many cases in Pahāṛī societies where the mediums are from low-status castes, the Rajput, together with the Brahmins, constitute the vast majority of high-status castes in Mahāsū’s region. As such, mediumship as practiced by the Rajput is not a case of possession by marginalized individuals or groups, as is sometimes claimed in connection with charisma and spirit-possession. Instead, we will present institutional possession of charismatic individuals, who sometimes perform individual mediumship, concerning individual problems, and sometimes perform public mediumship, concerning public problems. In the latter case this has the potential to counterbalance the role of the priests. Thus, in some cases the mediums can be a source of cultural-religious change, while in other cases they can help sustain the social order. Furthermore, mediums sometimes carry more political-social clout than religious priests.

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Brokers of Hope: Intermediaries in the Recruitment Industry in Nepal
Avash Piya, PhD Candidate, Aarhus University, Denmark

Abstract: Young men from Nepal have been recruited to serve in foreign military services for the past 200 years. Over the years, recruitment into foreign armies has decreased and competition has been very high. At the same time, recruitment selection process has been centralised in cities like Pokhara and Dharan. In this context, there has been a rise in the number of training institutions in these cities that act as intermediaries in the recruitment process. These training institutions claim to provide the necessary training including the physical, educational and inter-personal as required during selection, along with a wide range of services into foreign armies namely the British Army, Singapore Police and the Indian Army.

The tough regime of recruitment preparation and the competitive nature of selection mean that only a few young men are able to make it through, while others are left out. In this context, the training institutions have to constantly motivate the young men throughout their preparations so that they do not lose hope. Therefore, these intermediaries act not just as brokers of services, but as ‘brokers of hope,’ as I show. In this paper, I demonstrate the various strategies employed by the training institutions to work on the hopes of the young men. They do this in two ways: first by grounding recruitment tradition as part of young men’s past, and hence a responsibility; and then by opening up new opportunities, through recruitment, into the future lives of the young men. In this paper, I take the case of one of the training institutions in Pokhara, and the data presented here is from 11 months of fieldwork in Pokhara between 2012 -14.

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Does Joining Self Help Group Have Any Effect on Empowerment?
Bal Krishna Khadka,
Assistant Professor, School of Management Kathmandu University, Nepal; Pranaya Sthapit, Researcher, Interdisciplinary Analyst, Nepal; Chandra K.C, Assistant Lecturer, Tri-Chandra College, Nepal; Sudhindra Sharma, Executive Director, Interdisciplinary Analysts, Nepal

Abstract: Self Help Group (SHG) programs among women have played a pivotal role in the Global South as a cost-effective mechanism to provide financial services to unreached poor, as well as to strengthening women’s socio-economic capacities. Wales and Deshmukh (2011) suggest that SHG is instrumental to women’s empowerment and rural entrepreneurship, which brings individual and collective empowerment through improvement in both condition and position of women. SHGs provide trainings on various income generating skills as well as facilities the formation of social capital. Moreover, SHGs intend to increase self-confidence as well as self-awareness.

In Nepal, SHGs have taken the form of mothers’ groups or women groups. During the past three decades – helped partly by government agencies and non-governmental agencies, and partly on their own initiatives, women have formed mothers’ groups or women groups. Using survey data, this study will explore whether there is significant association between women joining savings group and the empowerment among women. In addition, it will explore the relationship between SHG and various dimensions of empowerment.

The term empower has different meanings depending upon different sociocultural and political contexts. For instance, Yadav and Rodriques (2014) define women empowerment as increase in spiritual, political, social, and economic strength of women. Amratya Sen (1985) emphasizes on the significance of substantive freedom and individual freedom to choose and achieve different outcomes. Thus, various scholars have measured empowerment in various ways via defined indicators.

The paper intends to use Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), to measure empowerment in five domains, including decisions about agriculture production, access and ownership of productive resources, control over income, leadership in the community, and time use. The findings of this paper could shed light on the effect of SHG participation upon various empowerment indicators. This endeavor could help design more effective and sustainable women’s empowerment intervention program in Nepal.

The analysis will be undertaken by analyzing the raw data of a study called “Evaluation of the Welfare Impacts of a Livestock Transfer Program in Nepal”. In particular, it attempts to examine both the 2014 baseline and 2016 midline survey data of the affore-mentioned study. Through randomized control trial (RCT) design, the baseline and mid-line survey collected data from 3,300 households spread across seven districts i.e., Dhading, Mahottari, Nuwakot, Palpa, Rautahat, Sarlahi, and Tanahun. The asset transfer program was designed to empower women through the formation of SHG (social capital) and also through imparting goats (physical capital) and skills (human capital). The survey questionnaire was designed to capture the five basic domains informed under WEAI[1].

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A Trajectory of Nepali Modernity: A Narrative of Ruptures and Repairs
Bal Bahadur Thapa,
PhD Candidate, Central Department of English, Tribhuvan University, Nepal

Abstract: Assuming modernity as a rupture in tradition in line with Nepal’s encounter with British Raj and its subsequent position as a periphery to global capitalism, this paper examines why the age old traditional values and practices, after every significant rupture heralded by forces of modernity, keep shaping values and practices of the modern Nepali society. Despite courting significant components of modernity like nation-state, technology, industrialization, development, democracy, and individual freedom, among others, from the West since the emergence of Nepal as a nation following its unification under the leadership of Prithvi Narayan Shah in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the values and practices emanating from feudalism, patriarchy and the Hindu caste system still persist in Nepal. Likewise, this paper also engages with following questions: What is modernity in different points of history in the context of Nepal? Is it similar to modernity as observed in the West? Or in the previously colonized spaces like India? If not, how are they different? How do vectors of modernity and tradition negotiate with each other? Can we take this negotiation as appropriation of modernity as argued by scholars like Leichty? If so, what are implications of such appropriation?

Following the scattered nodes of modernity’s trajectory in the Nepali society as reflected in the selected cultural products like Nepali novels, travelogues, autobiographies, films and constitutions, this project questions the Nepali society’s appropriation of modernity (Leichty 1994 & 1996). Of course, this paper, unlike Leichty’s work, won’t be limited to the middle class Nepali modernity. However, his notion of ‘suitably modern’ is an interesting issue to deal with. The appropriation of suitable components of modernity seems to be a double edged sword. It seems to reduce modernity into a cosmetic modernity at the cost of institutionalization of modernity. Modernity, as a benchmark of progress, change and development, seems to remain a chimera. The Nepali people, therefore, seem to be obsessed with modernity despite it threatens their traditional values and practices. On the other hand, it seems to protect the Nepali society from the ills of modernity like alienation, malaise, indifference, commodification and objectification prevailing in the Western society. In addition, it seems to help the Nepali society recuperate from the ruptures spurred by modernity, and thereby give it a way to critique modernity.

Since this paper is a part of a larger project, it, for the time being, will only scrutinize Prithvi Narayan Shah’s Dibyopadesh, Diamond Shamsher novel Rana’s Seto Bagh, Narayan Dhakal’s novel Pretkalpa, BS Thapa’s film Maitighar, Rajan Mukarung’s novel Damini Bhir for substantiating the trajectory of modernity from the unification of Nepal to the end of monarchy. Therefore, the selection of texts will be quite eclectic. As this is a cultural historiographical work, it will be divided as per different historical nodes significant for the emergence or arrival of particular components of modernity in Nepal.

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The Legacy of Silence: The Politics of Voice in Nepali Tīj
Balram Uprety,
Assistant Professor, Department of English, St. Joseph’s College, India

Abstract: Tīj has become a central cultural metaphor in Nepal. In spite of its canonical status as the festival of all Nepali Hindu women, constructed liberally in academic and popular discourse, the ontology of Tīj and its politics of representation have seldom been subjected to serious questioning and problematization. Attempting a close reading of the Nepali Tīj songs and the ritual complex of Tīj and rishi panchami, the present paper problematizes the indigenous as well as the non-indigenous academic and popular construction of Tīj as the festival of all Nepali women and more importantly the festival of all Nepali Hindu women. Though it cannot be denied that the festival acted as a powerful trope for articulating feminist protest in Nepal during the politically charged decade of the 1980s and 1990s, what has seldom gone uncontested is the failure of Tīj songs produced in this time as well as before to ‘touch’ the subjectivities of the untouchables. The songs continue to perpetuate the myth of homogenous Nepali sisterhood fighting a universal feminist battle against a monolithic Patriarchy. The paper seeks to grapple with the political and ideological implications of universalizing the narrative of the more privileged children of history. The paper finally seeks to argue that the production of knowledge is embedded in the politics of power and in the history of knowledge production, it is the more privileged that has mostly spoken for its internal others. In this politics of knowledge production can be located the collective tendency of indigenous folklore scholarship, dominated and controlled by the upper caste male scholars, to present Tīj as the archetypal genre of all Hindu Nepali women. The indigenous feminism, articulated in Tīj songs of the democratic turn and celebrated by scholars as one of the finest exemplars of feminist articulation in Nepal, is marked by essentialism and sameness and does not even notice the multiply marked, violated and incarcerated existence of an absence that is yet to be named by this metaphor. The ‘normativization’ and ‘normalization’ of the upper caste Bahun-Chhetri women’s subjectivities in the lyrical as well as the ritual complex of Tīj would continue a long process of erasure: in this hierarchical and political archeology of voice, Nepali Dalit women can never speak for themselves for they have already always been spoken for.

Keywords: Tīj, representation, feminism, caste, subaltern, erasure

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Rebuilding Nepal: Women’s Roles in Political Transition and Post-Disaster Recovery
Briana Mawby and Anna Applebaum, Hillary Rodham Clinton Research Fellows, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, USA

Abstract: Communities experiencing or emerging from conflict are often affected by natural disasters as well, creating unique and intersecting challenges. It is important to understand how fragile communities respond to and address both conflict and disaster relief, rather than examining these as separate and distinct processes. Furthermore, it is crucial to understand the key roles that women play in this intersection; research shows women play particular roles following conflict and disasters, and understanding women’s participation in these overlapping contexts is critical to effective recovery and reconstruction. This study examines the nexus of post-conflict transition and disaster relief and reconstruction, via Nepal as a case study. Women in Nepal have been very active in the political transition, influencing constitutional reform, transitional justice, and legal reform, and have been leaders in organizing disaster relief, providing services to underserved communities and physically rebuilding communities. This study draws from semi-structured interviews conducted in August 2016 with 31 civil society leaders and government officials in Nepal to produce best practices for facilitating and supporting women’s involvement in the nexus of conflict and disaster. The report is centered on two research questions: How have women been involved in Nepal’s political transition since 2006? How have women contributed to the management of and recovery after natural disasters in Nepal since 2006? The paper examines women’s involvement in both of these processes through thematic analysis of the factors that enabled women to work on constitutional reform, transitional justice, legal reform, and disaster recovery as well as the factors that led to the overlap of the roles that women have played in both of these areas of work. The paper provides an introduction to the political economy context of conflict and disaster in Nepal, a discussion of women’s movements in Nepal, a literature review about women and post-conflict reconstruction and women and post-disaster recovery, and analysis of women’s involvement in Nepal in these processes since 2006, based on interviews conducted by the researchers. Finally, the report concludes with best practices intended to serve policymakers in addressing complex situations in states affected by both conflict and disasters in the future. It is vital to understand the roles women in Nepal have played in these two processes and how these roles overlap or intertwine in order to ensure that post-conflict and post-disaster processes support all members of a community and holistically encourage sustainable and equitable reconstruction.

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Involuntary Childlessness in Nepal: Plural Healing Practices and Healing Journeys of Nepali Men
Gaurav Lamichhane,
PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, Germany

Abstract: This paper is a part of an ongoing PhD project that seeks to fill the gap that exists in the current scholarship on infertility, which is heavily skewed toward female infertility and biomedical interventions. The major objective of the project is to understand how different healing practices that exist in the medically plural landscape in Nepal shape the experience of involuntarily childless men. This will be done partly by investigating the nature of the competition, contestation, conflict, appropriation, and entanglement between different treatment and coping possibilities for infertility found in Nepal (biomedical, ritual and non-biomedical) and understanding how Nepali men coping with infertility negotiate between various options of healing practices they encounter in their therapeutic quest.

However, for the purpose of this paper, I will engage with the objective by limiting myself to the data I have gathered from: i) an ethnographic study (non-participant observation), since October 2016, of an infertility clinic in Kathmandu and interviews (semi-structured questions and informal discussions) with the patients (both male and female), doctors, and the staff in the clinic; ii) an interview with a healer who offers Astrology, Ayurveda, and Tantra healing services; iii) interviews with two men I met through snowball sampling method. With the few ethnographic narratives from my data, I aim to illustrate the ways in which various healing strategies for infertility found in Nepal compete, contest and come in conflict with each other. The theoretical framework of medical pluralism in Asian medical systems (Leslie 1976, 1980; Sujatha and Abraham 2012; Naraindas, 2006; Naraindas, Quack and Sax 2014) and Pigg’s work on the “questions of the villager’s belief” (1996) will allow me to analyze and comprehend the asymmetrical relationship between plural healing options pursued by the Nepali men coping with infertility.

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Accounting for Local Culture to Promote Safer Births in Rural and Remote Nepal
Jill Allison,
Global Health Co-ordinator, Clinical Assistant Professor, Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada; Madhusudan Subedi, Professor, Central Department of Sociology Tribhuvan University, Nepal; Cathy Ellis, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Registered Midwife, MSc., Canada; Bhakta Dev Shrestha, Medical officer, National Health Education Information and Communication Centre, Nepal; Nani Kaway, Master in Nursing (Women Health and Development), Institute of Medicine, Nepal; Llamo Sherpa, Department of Community Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway

Abstract: Introduction: Nepal’s Safe Motherhood Initiative has been in progress since 1997, shaping its programs in a shifting political and constitutional climate that is trying to account for diversity. Recent national health plans include an emphasis on Institutional Births and development of community birthing centers. We argue that this strategy must also account for local cultural conditions, allowing women some autonomy and opportunity to participate in choices around safer birthing practices with the best possible information and support.

Methods: This paper draws on qualitative research that includes 30 interviews with health care providers, 6 focus groups with health care providers, Mother’s Groups, Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) and local government policy and decision-makers, participant observation, and community based workshops. Our team consisted of local, Nepali and expatriate health care providers and social science researchers in a community based approach. Based on narrative analysis we present perspectives of health care providers in rural remote Mugu District in the Karnali region and a case study of one VDC to highlight the way provider discourse is unable to account for social obstacles to care that are both evident and exponentially more complex than a systems approach can acknowledge.

Findings: Preliminary findings indicate a mismatch between government programs that encourage institutional births in even in the most remote areas of the country, and the current capacity for some communities to utilize these strategies. There are broader community specific obstacles to increasing institutional births to improve maternal outcomes. Based on government training objectives, providers cite the need for educating women about safe birth preparedness and birthing centres through Mothers’ Groups and FCHVs, and developing a network of waiting homes for expectant mothers. On the other hand, women in some communities argue that they are in fact, making informed choices to deliver at home. Providers describe shyness and lack of women’s agency around decision making and use of finances, Women identify lack of trust in consistent 24 hour care in the centres, lack of cultural understanding and communication, lack of transport options, and fear of leaving home at night. Health care providers identify elements of community context as part of the challenge rather than part of the program.

Conclusions: We argue that a culturally responsive approach based on the local scenario is necessary to improve uptake and ensure safer births in the most remote and culturally distinct areas of Nepal’s Karnali region. In light of provider identified and locally observed challenges at the community level, we argue that in addition to emphasis on trained attendants, institutional birth, and resourced maternity waiting homes where feasible, health promotion and birth preparedness planning must be contextually informed and community engaged based on a deeper understanding of local values. Safe birth strategies must include communities to bridge the gap between ideals and the reality.

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The Sociology of Mt Everest
Kalyan Bhandari,
Lecturer, Events, Hospitality & Tourism, School of Business and Enterprise, University of the West of Scotland, UK

Abstract: Mt Everest is an international icon and a heritage of ‘universal’ value. To Nepal, it has wider economic, social, cultural meanings: it is the lifeline of mountain tourism, it embodies Nepali nationhood and reinforces a sense of identity. However, it also symbolises the contested side of Nepali national identity that is largely dominated by the cultural landscape of the highlands, overlooking the other provincial heritages of the nation. Despite such a broader significance of the mountain, studies on Mt Everest have largely been dominated by environmental studies and travel narratives, and the question of the sociological significance of the mountain has not received the attention it deserves. The proposed paper explores the significance of Mt. Everest as a national icon across for Nepali society. The study is driven by the following research question: should Mt Everest continue to stimulate Nepal’s national imagery?

The above question has become pertinent because the newly promulgated constitution of Nepal has recognised that Nepal is a federal republican state, which has warranted a need for forging an inclusive national identity based on pluralist ideology, as older references to Nepali national identity based on the Hindu monarchical system have outlived their purpose. For example, Mt Everest became a unanimous choice when, after the Monarchy was suspended in 2006, the central bank of Nepal began searching for a replacement for the King’s images in Nepali bank notes. Mt Everest has achieved an added importance because of the recent disasters in the Everest region, such as the 2014 avalanche and the April 2015 earthquake, which killed many people in the area of the mountain. These incidents have exposed the fragility of the Himalayan mountains, demystifying the view that they are indomitable, the character for which Mt Everest has been associated in the existence of the Nepali nation. Given such a background, a more grounded understanding of the iconic significance of Mt Everest in the changed political context would be useful in understanding the universality of the mountain as an icon of Nepali national identity. It would also help comprehend ethnic sensitivities towards the deployment of Mt Everest in the national imagery of ‘new’ Nepal.

The paper is based on primary data collected through qualitative interviews (n=20) and focus group discussions (n=2) with members of various national communities represented in the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN). The NEFIN is an autonomous and politically non-partisan, national level organization consisting of 54 indigenous member organizations widely distributed throughout different regions of Nepal. Secondary data in the form of various publications and archival records will be consulted from: i) the Rastriya Abhilekhalaya (the National Archive of Nepal); ii) Nepal Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya; and iii) Central Library, TU. The paper will discuss the findings from the interview and focus groups data collected in summer 2016. The research was funded by British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grants – SRG 2015-16 Round.

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Rental Market for Agricultural Capital Goods: An Analysis of Nepal Plains
Krishna Sharma, M.Phil. Student, Economics, South Asian University, New Delhi, India

Abstract: Unequal distribution of different factors of production has been a key feature of agrarian society, especially in developing countries (Lin 1995)[2]. One of the common example is unequal land-distribution in most of the developing and poor agrarian countries (Cervantes-Godoy and Dewbre 2010)[3]. Generally, in the rural setup of these economies, few households possess larger part of the agricultural land while there are households who have little lands but likely to have more members in the family i.e. surplus labor. The inequality in the ownership of resources is not necessarily confined to land and labour; but may in fact be applicable in case of other inputs of production. For example, while a few rich and big farmers may own capital goods like tractor, power tiller and so on, most of the small and poor farmers will not have the resources to own agricultural machinery and capital goods. In fact, it may not be economically viable for the small farmers to own such capital goods given the size of their operational holdings. Even for the relatively big farmers, the agricultural machinery may remain underutilized since the capacities of the capital goods are usually more than the operational holdings of the farmers. It is argued that such kind of mismatch in the distribution of factors of production hampers their fuller utilization, and reduce agricultural production and productivity (Das 2015)[4]. As far as the capital goods are concerned, their uneven possession hinders the extent of mechanization and may lower agricultural output.

The extent of mechanization that may get reduced due to uneven ownership of capital goods is further constrained by small and fragmented land holdings (Das 2015). Small and fragmented land holdings make possession of capital goods unviable and thereby prevent mechanization. Recognizing the adverse effects of fragmented land holdings, land reform measures such as consolidation of land holdings had been initiated by governments in countries like India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, this was obstructed due to differences in land valuation, lack of acceptable compensation mechanism and sentimental attachment to their land (Niroula and Thapa 2005)[5].
While consolidation of land holdings is not easy to achieve and therefore fragmentation of landholdings may continue to limit mechanization and agricultural production, markets for the services of different factors such as land, labor, livestock and capital goods can provide a solution (Lin 1995; Aryal and Holden, 2012[6]; Goswami, 2016[7]). There is consensus among scholars that the existence of such rental market ultimately helps in adjusting the factor endowments among agricultural households and helps in mechanization and improving agricultural production. Lin (1995), in context of China, has documented the emergence of such kind of rental markets as an institutional innovation which is induced by differences in factor endowments.

Nepal’s agriculture is characterized by preponderance of marginal and small holdings. 74.2 % of agricultural holdings are below 1 hectare. In fact, 91.7 % of the agricultural holdings are less than two hectare accounting for 68.7 % of the total operated area. The average size of holding is only 0.8 hectare (APCAS (Asian Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics, 2010[8]). In fact, due to the heredity tradition of equal division of land among the inheritors, the number of land parcels is increasing with a decreasing trend in the size of land parcels in Nepal. Thus, for the reasons discussed above, the preponderance of small and fragmented holdings may cause serious obstacles for mechanization of agriculture by reducing the desire of the farmers to invest in capital goods .This may ultimately affect the overall performance of the agriculture sector in Nepal. However, existence of a rental market for capital goods will increase the extent of mechanization without the small farmers having to own these goods on their own and thereby can contribute to the growth of the sector. Accordingly, the paper analyses the nature and extent of rental market for agricultural capital goods in the plains of Nepal by using survey data collected through a multi-stage sampling design. The study further identifies the factors that affect the households’ decision to participate in the rental market.

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Translating Voice: On the Labor of Interpreters in Global Institutions
Laura Kunreuther,
Director, Anthropology, Bard College, New York

Abstract: This paper focuses on the work of interpreters, focusing on those who worked for the UN Office for the High Commission of Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), during and after the Maoist civil war. The paper is the beginning of an ethnographic study of interpreters that aims to provide insights into the way translation is linked to broader global projects from within a specific ‘field’. What is entailed materially and affectively in speaking two voices at once – neither of which is “one’s own”? What happens when the medium for circulating another’s voice is another human being, whose labor is often compared with machines? I explore interpreters’ work through the lens of translatability that goes beyond the problems of language correspondence. We must also consider the materiality of sound and voice, the physical immediacy of being with one’s ‘source’, subjectivity and the body. Working within a global bureaucracy that values transparency and unmediated evidence, interpreters necessarily become invisible, a part of the broader infrastructural apparatus of the UN, even as their work is essential to realizing the international goals of the organization.

Interpreters fall into a category of modern workers and technologies that might be thought of as conduits of voice. Other conduits of voice might include: stenographers, diplomatic and religious translators, voice-over artists, telephone captionists, but also technologies like radios, telephones, and voice recorders. The primary work of the human conduits of voice is to faithfully reproduce and recycle the speech of others to produce as close as possible an accurate copy of the original or in UN terminology ‘the source’. Insofar as their work is assumed to produce mechanical-like fidelity, interpreters are often compared to machines, either in celebration of their remarkable skills or as a means to degrade their humanity and assert their lower status within the UN hierarchy. Yet, in contrast to machines, interpreters must understand the sounds they transform into another code.

The ideal of transparency – while certainly not new – has gained prominence in global bureaucracies during the 1990s through both economic and government reforms that celebrate information as a cure to many ills (Hetherington 2011: 4-5). Less acknowledged is that the information inscribed in transparent documents comes through the messy and contingent encounters between people, such as UN officers, interpreters, and the people with whom they speak. To produce seemingly unmediated information, interpreters must disappear from the scenes they describe. Interpreters are ‘voicebox’ of another’s words, and their dissociation from both the ‘principal’ and ‘authorship’ of the speech they produce creates the illusion of transparent evidence of possible truths. In the context of Nepal, I explore the tensions and collaborations entailed between interpreters and human rights officers, as well as differences in the experience of ‘international’ versus ‘national’ interpreters, through interviews and in-depth stories about their work.

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Shifting Ecologies of Mental Health Care in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Liana E. Chase,
PhD Candidate, Anthropology SOAS, University of London, UK

Abstract: In spring 2015, two high-magnitude earthquakes struck Nepal, killing nearly 9,000. In the months that followed, the country saw an unprecedented proliferation of mental health and psychosocial programs. In line with the World Health Organization’s directive to “build back better,” many of these initiatives sought to use the disaster as a platform for strengthening and transforming Nepal’s mental health care system. Over the past two years, this has entailed “scaling up” mental health services, evident in the creation of new institutions, the training of new clinicians, and the integration of mental health into some primary care settings, as well as “psychoeducation” campaigns to increase mental health literacy among the general public. This ethnographic study explores how local “ecologies of care” in Nepal are accommodating this rapid influx of mental health knowledge and practices; specifically, it considers the range and reach of new care resources, their influence on the use and practice of traditional care systems, and attendant changes in the ways lay community members seek and provide care for mental suffering. Fieldwork is currently ongoing in two earthquake-affected districts representing contrasting social ecologies: the metropolitan hub of Kathmandu and the predominantly rural Sindhupalchok. In both contexts, semi-structured interviews and extensive participant observation have been carried out among care-providers representing diverse approaches to addressing mental suffering in Nepal as well as the intended beneficiaries of recent mental health interventions– earthquake survivors. This paper presents preliminary findings based on the first ten months of fieldwork. I begin by summarizing the scope of mental health care resources introduced since the earthquakes, highlighting variation in their concentration, content, and sustainability across affected districts and positing some of the factors that give rise to disparities. Next, I draw attention to other forms of care that have been widely engaged in addressing mental suffering associated with the earthquakes, including shamanism, religious/ritual healing, and informal care among family, friends, and neighbors. Finally, I discuss how changes in the availability and arrangement of these varied care resources have altered patterns of care-seeking among lay community members. In closing, I offer some reflections on what the case study of Nepal can contribute to scholarly debates around “psychiatric humanitarianism.” I argue that the findings of the present research challenge common social science critiques of post-disaster mental health intervention which hinge on polarized representations of “imported” versus “indigenous” or “global” versus “local” therapeutic knowledge. Current conditions in Nepal reveal the need for a more nuanced conceptualization of the globalization of mental health care– one which accounts for the flexibility and dynamism of care systems; the localized and often non-clinical considerations that mediate their use; and high levels of individual variation in the experience and management of suffering.

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Schools as an Arena of Struggle: Reexamining the Panchayat Era Politics of Education
Lokranjan Parajuli, Senior Researcher, Martin Chautari

Abstract: In 1971, the royal government of Nepal introduced National Education System Plan (NESP; often called New Education Plan or Naya Shiksha), after years of secret planning, aimed at complete overhauling of the entire education system of the country. It was prepared under the command of king Mahendra, whereas the then crown prince Birendra took active part in designing, finalising, and also in implementing it, when he became the king after his father’s death in 1972 (Mitchell 1976, Hayes 1981). The plan was claimed by the government as an effort to expand the outreach and was also often touted as the “effort to modernize rural Nepal.”

Referring to the educational innovations of the earlier two decades, the plan began, “HMGN has since a long time realized that rapid, un-purposive and lopsided growth of education was leading to alienation of education from the country’s socio-economic realities” (HMG 2028vs: i). The official transcripts claimed that the education system of the two decades since 1951 “did not reflect the national reality.” The term “manpower” was often invoked to justify the new plan, and the education system of the past was blamed for failing to provide with adequate “manpower” that the country required (Gurung 1972, 1973, Manandhar 1974). To make education “relevant to national need and functional,” the regime intervened in every aspect of the education: from syllabi/curricula/textbooks to teachers, examination system and the students, which had far reaching implications. With the NESP, the schools and colleges were nationalized; they became royal government property.

By situating the new education plan in larger historico-political context this paper argues that while it was true that there was short supply of human resources in “technical areas” it was not the reason for which the new plan was devised and introduced. “Manpower” was merely a pretext to extend the regime’s grip over public life by taking full control of the educational arena and weeding the erstwhile political actors out from that arena. This was an effort, this paper further argues, to “craft” the future citizens’ minds so as to make them loyal to the system and monarchy by intervening through the textbooks and examinations (cf. Onta 1996).

Gurung, Harka. 1972. Graduates in Nepal: A Diagnostic Study. Kathmandu: National Planning Commission, Human Resources Division.Gurung, Harka. 1973. Manpower Needs and the Education Plan. Education Quarterly XVI(2): 1-10.Hayes, Louis D. 1981. Education Reform in Nepal: An Evaluation. Asian Survey 21(6): 676-88.HMG (His Majesty’s Government). 2028vs (1971). The National Education System Plan for 1971-76. Kathmandu: Ministry of Education, HMG.Manandhar, Tirtha M. 1974. Manpower and Education in Nepal: A Survey. In On Education in Nepal: A Topical Compilation. Mohamad Mohsin and Prem Kasaju, eds., pp. 9-21. Kathmandu: The Office of National Education Committee.Mitchell, Edna. 1976. The New Education Plan in Nepal: Balancing Conflicting Values for National Survival. In The Anthropological Study of Education. Craig J Calhoun and Francis AJ Ianni, eds., pp. 159-170. The Hague: Morton.Mohsin, Mohammad. 1974. The National Education Plan: An Analytical Introduction. In On Education in Nepal: A Topical Compilation. Mohamad Mohsin and Prem Kasaju, eds., pp. 1-8. Kathmandu: The Office of National Education Committee.Onta, Pratyoush. 1996b. Ambivalence Denied: The Making of Rastriya Itihas in Panchayat Era Textbooks. Contributions to Nepalese Studies 23(1): 213-54.

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Poverty, Diversity and Democracy: Breakdown, Erosion and Endurance in South Asia
Mahendra Lawoti,
Professor, Department of Political Science, Western Michigan University

Abstract: Democratization literature points out that democracy has often broken down in poor (Prezworski et al 2000; Lipset 1959; Huntington 1968) and diverse (Horowitz 1985 and 1994; Gurr 1993: Synder 2005; Puddington 2015) societies. Exacerbation of conflict over resources between different classes in poor countries and conflict over recognition and identities among different cultural groups in diverse societies have posed double challenges for sustaining democracy. However, a few diverse and poor countries have been able to overcome the double challenges to sustain democracy (Kohli 2001; Picard 1987; Sandbrook et al. 2007). This paper asks the question: when do poor and diverse countries avoid breakdown of democracy? Specifically, based on literature review of countries where democracy has sustained and broken down, it asks whether accommodative institutions and policies enable diverse and poor countries to avoid breakdown of democracy (Lijphart 1977; Chandra 2005; Prezowrski 2008; Reynolds 2002). It attempts to answer the question by comparing five poor and diverse South Asian countries with three set of democratic outcomes – India, where democracy has endured; Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh where democracy broke down multiple times and Sri Lanka where democracy has sustained but with considerable erosion. The study will employ a structured, focused comparison by asking a same set of questions in the five countries (George and Bennett 2005; Landman 2013; Lijphart 1971), such as did the countries adopt multiple accommodative or non-accommodative institutions and did they formulate and implement expansive or weak pro-poor policies? Did those institutions and policies contribute in the breakdown, erosion or sustenance of democracies in the respective countries? Comparing countries from the same region with similar socio-economic and cultural context but with different political outcomes (dependent variable) and same independent variables (political institutions, policies) with different values would allow rigorous analysis of causes of breakdown, consolidation or erosion. It allows identification of factors that exist in successful cases but not in failure cases (King et al. 1994; Bradly and Collier 2010). The paper will investigate whether India adopted different set of institutions and policies than Sri Lanka, and Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to tackle the challenges posed by poverty and diversity. The study draws upon fieldwork in the five countries over the years, secondary literature, and empirical data from datasets on democracy, welfare expenditure, press freedom etc. The paper will argue that multiple accommodative as well as non-dominating institutions and pro-poor policies that did not threaten the wealthy allowed India to overcome the challenges posed by poverty and diversity and in avoiding breakdown of democracy whereas non-accommodative institutions and weak welfare policies contributed to breakdown of democracy in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. On the other hand, extensive welfare policies prevented breakdown of democracy in Sri Lanka by diffusing the class challenge but non-accommodative institutions led to a protracted violent ethnic conflict that eroded its democracy.

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Textualizing a Festival: the Indra Festival in 19th Century Nepal
Michael C. Baltutis,
Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies and Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, USA

Abstract: Though celebrated virtually nowhere in India today, the presence of the festival of Indra in Sanskrit texts of many different genre signals the prevalence of its annual performance throughout India at the turn of the first millennium. Celebrated widely at a popular level, this festival also served official ends, as royal authors employed this lofty festival as a literary trope in their astronomical, architectural, and ritual texts for the establishment and maintenance of empire. The content of these texts reinforces the identity of the beneficiaries of the festival’s performance through their consistent attention to the king, his family, his officials, his capital city, and his kingdom as a whole.

The sole surviving contemporary performance of the classical Indra festival in Kathmandu, Nepal, also focuses on the royal object of Indra’s pole/flag, though its use there is of a rather modern provenance. The Shah dynasty established its empire through its three-part deployment of the festival in the 18th century. First, the 1768 Indra festival provided the setting for the successful Shah invasion of the Kathmandu Valley, after which they moved the capital city from Bhaktapur to Kathmandu. Second, the priests of the Shah dynasty introduced this festival to their new capital city of Kathmandu in the 18th century and made it correspond to, and cover over, an extant local Newar festival that possessed its own powerful royal deity, Bhairav. Finally, they commissioned the composition of texts prescribing the festival’s performance and describing its immense and royal benefits.

This paper will detail how one of these texts, Indradhvajotsava Kathana, composed by Śakti Vallabha Bhaṭṭācārya Arjyala, the poet of the Shah court in the early 19th century, epitomizes the tension between these two festivals, which continue to be celebrated simultaneously every autumn in Kathmandu. Though this text clearly draws on elements of both the local Newar and universal Indra festivals, Arjyala’s strategic reproduction of classical Sanskrit texts in the Kathana assists in the Shah court’s re-construction of the performance of the Indra festival as Sanskritic and classically Hindu and serves as a strategy for re-constructing the Indra festival as a means for the establishment of the nascent Shah empire.

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Muslims of Nepal: Trajectories of Marginalization A Review of Literature
Mohammad Ayub,
Research Associate, Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility (CESLAM), Social Science Baha

Abstract: Muslims of Nepal is a distinct minority in a country of minorities. With its numerical share of 4.4 per cent in the total population it stands at eighth rank among all the social groups and third on the religious groups followed by Hindus and Buddhists. Muslims of Nepal is seen, by most of the parameters, as one of the most marginalized social group on all the socioeconomic and political frontiers.

Historically, Nepal being a Hindu kingdom, Muslims remained outside the caste hierarchy that played a consequential role in excluding Muslims from the mainstream socio-economic and political fronts. Likewise, due to their religious norms, both in spiritual and social lives that goes in many ways opposite to the Hindu norms, they were termed and treated as people of opposite faith, had consequential role in their further alienation from the mainstream social life.

The paper argues that the trajectories of Muslims marginalization can be seen from diverse angles and no singular cause can be drawn for a holistic understanding. For instance, history betrayed them for being outside of the caste hierarchy and when the caste hierarchy was weaken or revoked after the political developments after 1950s, other disadvantaged social groups attracted the attention of the civil society and academia. But Muslims of Nepal failed in that dimension too with only very few scholars paid attention to it in bits and pieces and could focus only on some facets of the group while the larger group is still unknown to the larger academia, civil society and other stakeholders. As a result, this lacuna created many contradictory images of Muslims of Nepal. For instance while the Census of Nepal (2011) mentions only one caste and ethnic group within Muslim community, there are a number of literatures that stress on the divisions and social differences within the community as one of the reasons of their backwardness. The paper is a review of literature on the Muslims of Nepal. This analyses the historical roots of their marginalization taking evidences from the Muluki Ain of 1854 and in its various amendments. Also, the paper analyses the interim constitution and the constitution of 2015 on its treatment of the group. Similarly, the paper reviews the academic literatures that have been produced after 1960s on the said group. Likewise, the paper reviews the trend of the Muslims of Nepal in various censuses conducted from the very first census in Nepal to understand the changing demographic characteristics of the said group.

Key Words: Muslims of Nepal, Marginalization, Constitution of Nepal, Muluki Ain 1854

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Analysing the Construction of Gendered Work: A Case of Hotels, Resorts and Casinos in the Kathmandu Valley
Mona Shrestha Adhikari,
Fellow, South Asia Watch on Trade Economics and Environment, Nepal

Abstract: The paper attempts to analyse how gendered work gets constructed in the hotels, resorts and casinos drawing on a feminist research conducted in six establishments – two samples from each category of five star hotels, deluxe resorts and casinos. The research uses mixed methods of 21 questionnaires, 65 semi-structured interviews of male and female workers, managers, male family members and policy experts and observations made at some at the sample establishments.

The study uses the concept of occupational segregation to unpack the gender division of labour by analysing vertical and horizontal segregation and shows how gendering occurs at the structural level of the establishments. The paper argues that gendered work is constructed by three distinct but related dimensions, namely: a) the gender division of labour; b) the gendered ideologies of managers and workers; and c) the gendering of skills provided through training.

The research finds that there is a ‘gendering’ of organisational or establishment structures (hierarchies and jobs), the ideologies of managers and workers, the skills provided in training and the performance of certain aspects of interactive service work. Another dimension concerns the gendered ideologies held by managers and workers, which further legitimise and/or contest the gender division of labour. These gendered ideologies are underpinned by essentialist views that attach attributes of masculinity and femininity to certain jobs which are considered as ‘men’s’ and ‘women’s’ domains as if they are ‘hermitically sealed’ which leads to workers ‘doing gender’ at work. In addition, a few women who challenged such gendered ideologies could perhaps be seen as ‘undoing gender’ as they work in non-traditional jobs. They faced male resistance and had to prove that they could do the same work as men, and consciously challenged the notion that women are not fit to work in certain departments.

A third dimension relates the way gendered work is constructed, concerns the training provided to workers by the establishments. Workers are trained with various skills that are not mutually exclusive and there is a gendering of skills. Managers’ accounts indicate the emphasis on training workers in order to meet the customers’ expectations of ‘quality service’ as well as maintaining the ‘standardised service’ of the establishments. This means there is a gendering of skills as men and women workers acquire different sets of skills which also depends on where they work within and across the different establishments; this can be understood as workers doing gender at work.

Thus, the research finds that the nature of gendered work varies depending on the type of sector/industry in which work is performed. It shows that the country context is important; the workforce in hotel and casino sector in Nepal is not feminised overall but certain occupations within it are becoming feminised. This is different to the findings of the studies conducted in the Western contexts.

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Forest Futures: Tenure Mosaics of Nepal’s Terai Arc Landscape
Nayna Jhaveri, Independent Researcher

Abstract: This paper examines the current status of forest tenure regimes (both legal and de facto) within the twelve Terai districts from Rautahat to Kanchanpur. The Terai is a large lowland belt that is rapidly developing with most of its 7.35 million population having settled in waves of migration over time. The Terai is at once the target of economic growth and infrastructure programs, major internationally significant conservation initiatives, development programs to help improve the livelihoods of the prevalently poor and landless communities who are highly dependent on natural resources, as well as commercial timber extraction operations.

The challenges of managing the valuable forests of the Terai that meets a range of ecological, livelihoods, and economic needs demands further innovation in the structure of devolved forest management in Nepal. While devolution of forest management in the Middle Hills has progressed smoothly, the contested process of devolution in the Terai has unfolded in relation to the specific physiographic, economic, demographic and political context. There is now a broadly accepted understanding that the successful development of initiatives to sustainably manage Terai forests requires careful attention to how tenure affects social, economic, political and environmental impacts.

Tenure refers to the set of relationships, institutions and rules that determine rights to land and forest resources. It is crucial to understand how the multiple and complex, including devolved tenure systems that are typically at work as a mosaic of governance systems, interact with each other to produce an aggregate effect across the forested landscape. In an overall sense, the complex political economy of forest management in the Terai is the result of a range of factors from a strong government policy on forest conservation, geographies of forest cover, histories of migration, distribution of ethnically and indigenously divergent communities, and newly introduced policies addressing social inclusion and poverty.

Based on an analysis of how the specific pattern of tenure arrangements within each district is related to the pattern of forest cover and settlement, this paper identifies a specific set of tenure challenges that need to be addressed in order for sustainable forest management to be implemented. For the last 25 years, Nepal has undergone a substantial and still-evolving process for devolution of state forestland management to local communities through a range of legal and policy mechanisms. There has been little specific analysis to date of how this devolution process has unfolded in the twelve districts of the Terai that present a composite mosaic of nine diverse types of government-managed, community-managed, and privately-managed forest management regimes. The paper analyzes precisely what the mix and geographical range of its forest management regimes are, and how they have specifically developed within the ecological, demographic and political economic context of the Terai that is richly forested by the economically valuable sal (Shorea robusta).

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Exploring Social and Economic Disparities in Nepal
Nishesh Chalise, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, Augsburg College, Minnesota

Abstract: Nepal is home to people of various ethnicities that do not have equal access to power and privileges. Specifically, Khas-Aryan groups are considered to be at the center while Indigenous and Dalit groups have been at the periphery of this power structure. Discussion on inequality is complicated in three different ways. First, the lack of analysis at the national level on the social and economic manifestations of inequality diminishes the magnitude of the problem. An understanding of how different groups fare across multiple indicators is essential for raising awareness of such disparities. Second, one could argue that rurality is the primary determinant of inequality. Significant portion of people live in rural areas that have significantly lower access to resources. The stark contrast between urban and rural areas is easily observed in Nepal, making an analysis that can disentangle the ethnicity and rurality components quite significant. Finally, Nepal has seen improvements in social and economic indicators over the years, which reinforce the idea that inequality is a past phenomenon and every group experiences the benefits of development equally. Based on these challenges in examining disparities, three research questions guide the analysis: 1) how does this inequitable access to power and privileges manifest itself in social and economic terms?, 2) how does unequal access to resources look like with the added dimension of rurality?, and 3) How have these disparities changed in the past decade? This study explores these questions using publicly available nationally represented data collected through the Demographic Health Survey (DHS). Data published on 2001, 2006, and 2011 were combined to look at trends of inequities for different ethnic groups in different regions. The combined dataset includes a nationally representative sample of 28,135 households. Wealth is one of the main indicators analyzed in this study, which is a variable representing a mix of items owned by a household. The wealth variable was developed using principle component analysis and is already included in the survey. The items that determine a household’s wealth index varies for rural and urban areas. Although at an early stage of analysis, the study shows that even though poorer households (based on the wealth index) are concentrated in rural areas there are significant differences between region and ethnicity. This suggests that policies and programs in both government and non-government sectors needs to be cognizant that benefits are not shared equitable across groups and region.

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Who’s Holy Cow is it Anyway? Towards a Haptic History of Human-Animal Interactions in the Western Himalaya
Nivedita Nath,
PhD Candidate, History, University of California, USA

Abstract: This paper will examine human-cattle interactions in the Kumaun Hills under British colonial rule to problematize persistent equations between ‘native culture’ and timeless, pristine ‘nature’. It will challenge conventional environmental histories which describe Kumauni life in terms of the constraints of physical geography. Cattle and Kumauni conceptions of animals will thus emerge as central agents of history. Drawing upon recent interventions in the history of animals, this paper will argue that colonial homologies of race and space as well as customary ideas of pollution and purity were simultaneously inscribed upon and written through the body of the cow. It is hoped that this history of human-cattle interactions in the Western Himalayas will bear upon both spatial history as well as contemporary debates about cow politics in South Asia.

Contestation over the sacredness of the cow remains an important issue in modern India, yet an overwhelming focus on communal politics between ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’ often elides its implications for other marginalized groups. In the Western Himalayas, for instance, the enforced proximity between menstruating women and cows has been ignored. Scholars have tried to debunk the ‘myth of the holy cow’ through careful analyses of the long and uneven career of cows in high Hindu, Sanskrit texts. Their works present a crucial challenge to the essentialist trope of the ‘holy cow’. However, even in such revisionist readings, the cow does not emerge as an agent in the trans-local and transcendent discussion of its sanctity. Through a ‘haptic history’ of human-animal interactions, this paper will argue that the moving, lactating and excreting body of the animal is not just a backdrop but is at the very heart of the dispute over its social and historical significance.

Problematizing the timeless image of the ‘holy cow’ from the standpoint of localized human-cattle interactions requires a precise definition of the ‘local’ and its representativeness with respect to the rest of the subcontinent. Even though the official construction of locality in Kumaun separated the region from the plains and the high mountain passes, a cursory attentiveness to the movements of cattle immediately muddies such linear divisions of highland/lowland enforced by colonial environmental rationales. By taking the official category of ‘hill cattle’ as its subject of analysis, this paper will question the manner in which locality was mapped onto bovines. Instead it will look beyond state space to consider cows as participants in place-making.

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Ethnographic Exploration of Maternal and Child Health Projects in Nepal: A Critical Analysis of the Data Collection Processes
Obindra B. Chand, Research Associate, Social Science Baha, Nepal; Radha Adhikari, Visiting Research Fellow, School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh, UK

Abstract: Data collection in development projects, primarily to produce measureable results, achieve stated targets, and meet the specified goals within a particular time frame, has increased dramatically in global health and global development practices. Two key global events, the Millennium Summit (2000) and Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005) have further emphasised the importance of achieving measurable goals and results. However, this trend is not entirely new in policy debates (or scenarios) and development practice. Based on ethnographic research conducted from April 2014 to August 2016, and focusing on four projects implemented in Nepal – in the sector of maternal, neonatal, and child health – this paper argues for a paradigm shift in development practices. The current development paradigm is focused on producing measureable results within a specific time frame, as they are principally guided by value for money and efficiency in data collection. In doing so, all the projects/programmes are designed/developed and implemented under a results- framework. This trend not only overlooks crucial and critical aspects [such as quality of healthcare services, and their sustainability and impact] of the projects themselves, but it also silences several dimensions of the broader contexts in the area where these projects and programmes are implemented. Finally, the paper concludes by suggesting that this increasing tendency has dovetailed development projects into more technocratic and goal based endeavours, which are exclusively interested in measuring results and achieving targets that disregard the unique socio-cultural contexts of the issue. This direction neither provides the actual scenario of available healthcare services on the ground, nor does it offer a specific and a broader understanding of service development and delivery. Therefore, this paper calls for a more interdisciplinary approach to data collection, which incorporates methodologies and research design that embraces local subjectivities. Otherwise, all these development projects and the goals may become mere rhetoric without delivering the substantial changes the projects initially intended.

Key Words: evidence collection, ethnography, global health, recording and reporting of information, Nepal

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Religion and Development in Sikkim
Pooja Thapa, PhD Candidate, Sociology, Institute for Social and Economic Change, India

Abstract: The association of religion and development has received increasing attention since the beginning of the twenty-first century (Narayan et al 2000, Alkire 2006, Haynes 2007, Clarke 2011, Rakodi 2011, Tomalin 2013). This is partly as a result of the failure of the secular approach of development to achieve economic growth (Haynes 2007, Lunn 2009) and also emerged from Weber’s discourse of Modernity as ‘disenchantment of the world’ characterised by rationalism, secularism, and bureaucratic ‘iron cage’ (Saler 2004, Jenkins 2000, Carroll 2011).

Sikkim became a part of India on May 16th, 1975, simultaneously putting an end to the theocratic rule of the Chogyals. However, Buddhism as a State religion in the past still leaves a print in today’s political institutions of Sikkim in the form of Sangha seat in State Legislative Assembly and Ecclesiastical Affairs Department to look after the affairs of all the religious institutions within the state which stands distinct from the Indian notion of secularism (Vandenhelsken 2003, Arora 2006). Thus Sikkim represents a paradoxical case as one can sense a continuity of some theocratic elements in Sikkim’s democratic polity.

Buddhism is the second largest religion in Sikkim after Hinduism. Buddhist comprises 29.60% the total population. Thus considering that Buddhism is a minority religion, one can simultaneously observe the increasing number of monasteries, for instance, The Gazetteer of Sikkim (1894: 257) states 36 monasteries in Sikkim whereas today there are 248 monasteries under Ecclesiastical Affairs Department, consecration of Buddhist statues (Arora 2006), and the display of Buddhists festivals and rituals in the public arena by the state (Vandenhelsken 2011), one can sense a strong hold of Buddhism in Sikkim not only in political system (in the form of Sangha seat) but also as pilgrimage tourism (Arora 2006), and used as a medium by the politicians to acquire moral legitimacy for its rule and Scheduled Tribe status from the central government (Vandenhelsken 2011).

With this background in brief, this paper is an attempt to examine the relationship between religion and development processes in Sikkim. First it attempts to map two important religious bodies, Sangha and Ecclesiastical Affairs Department and secondly it seeks to find out how they are engaged with the state through various development processes. The engagement of religion with the state has many dimensions. In the course, the paper also attempts to capture some aspects of Buddhists philosophical concepts which are applied to protect environment in recent times and certain programmes such as awareness on climate change, plantation of trees, cultivation without using chemical fertilizers, waste management systems, promotion of solar energy and being vegetarian are carried out, mainly in Kagyu monasteries under the guidance of 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje in Sikkim. Such programmes are carried out with the financial help of international development agencies like United State Agency for International Development (USAID) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

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Property Rights, Intersectionality, and Women’s Empowerment: Examining the Meanings of Property for Women with Different Social Locations in Nepal
Rajendra Pradhan,
Managing Director, Nepā School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Nepal; Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute, USA; Sophie Theis, Research Analyst, International Food Policy Research Institute

Abstract: Property is widely recognized as an important resource for empowering women. Many development policies worldwide therefore emphasize the need for women to acquire property, especially in the form of physical assets such as land and livestock, but also cash. Numerous studies, mostly based on household surveys (Carter & Barrett 2006; Meinzen-Dick et al 2011; Quisumbing et al 2015; Johnson et al 2016), have shown that enhancing women’s ownership of and control over physical assets improves their bargaining power within the household, makes them more economically autonomous and independent, and increases their control over income generated by the assets. However, the relationship between property (assets) and women’s empowerment is more complex than assumed in these studies and policies because of the overlapping and dynamic nature of property rights and the intersection of gender with other identities such as ethnicity, caste, class and social location of women within a household (“intersectionality”).

Norms and understandings of what constitutes property, rights and ‘ownership’ vary across contexts, and perspectives may even differ within a household. Moreover, intersectionality means that women with different identities experience different property rights norms that help or hinder them from acquiring, maintaining, and benefiting from various types of assets and using property to empower themselves. Depending on a woman’s social and economic situation, household or joint property may offer benefits and even have certain advantages over individual property.

In this paper, we explore how different understandings and norms around property and property rights affect the empowerment of women of different intersecting identities. Going beyond formal ownership of property, we look at property rights rules and norms by social location, ethnicity, household structure, and class, including how they are established and negotiated along the life cycle. We examine patterns in how individuals access, control, and use individual and joint assets under these different property right regimes. Finally, the paper assesses how quantitative research methods run the risk of misinterpreting asset and empowerment data if nuance around the concepts of property rights and intersectionality is not incorporated.

The paper draws on qualitative (ethnographic) and quantitative (household survey) research conducted for the “Evaluation of the Welfare Impacts of a Livestock Transfer Program in Nepal.” Ethnographic study combining focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews, and life-histories were conducted in four sites for a period of 60 days each, focusing on topics of empowerment, social capital, property rights, migration, and in one site, the impact of Heifer’s livestock project on women’s empowerment. This paper is primarily based on the ethnographic study conducted in 2015 as well as a supplemental study to be conducted in March 2017.

Carter, M.R. and Barrett, C.B. 2006. The economics of poverty traps and persistent poverty: An asset-based approach. The Journal of Development Studies, 42(2), pp.178-199.
Johnson, N. L., Kovarik, C., Meinzen-Dick, R., Njuki, J. and Quisumbing, A. 2016. Gender, Assets, and Agricultural Development: Lessons from Eight Projects. World Development.
Meinzen-Dick, R. et al. 2011. Gender, Assets, and Agricultural Development Programs: A Conceptual Framework. CAPRi Working Paper No. 99. International Food Policy Research Institute: Washington, DC.Quisumbing, A.R., Rubin, D., Manfre, C., Waithanji, E., van den Bold, M., Olney, D., Johnson, N., et al. 2015. Gender, assets, and market-oriented agriculture: learning from high-value crop and livestock projects in Africa and Asia. Agriculture and Human Values.

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Re-emergence of Gurukul in Nepal: Deconstructing Vedic Tradition for Girls
Rajendra Raj Timilsina,
PhD Candidate, Kathmandu University School of Education, Nepal

Abstract: Vedic Gurukul schools have been reemerging in recent years in Nepal. Gurukul/Veda Vidyashram Management Council have been established under Department of Education for making policies for the Gurukuls. More than one hundred and fifty such schools have been affiliated to the council. There are dozens of such schools which have not registered yet, as officials informed. Some of the registered Gurukuls found inclusive which are deconstructing the tradition of Veda learning. Some of the Gurukuls have been running only for girls as well.

Methodologically, the author have observed several Gurukuls in different parts of the country, interviews were conducted with the school management side as well Vedic experts on re-emergence of the Veda Vidyalaya and Veda practice by female in such Schools. Some are running as orthodox way, some are modifying the traditions slightly and some of newly emerged Gurukul have been deconstructing the tradition in several ways.

Hindu tradition generally rejects chanting of Vedic mantras by women. No female priest has been found for regular rituals in Nepali society so far. Biologically, menstruation and culturally, Upanayana Sanskar are taken as major obstacles in achieving the skills of Vedic knowledge. Some literatures state Dwija (twice born cast) lady can learn Veda either after Upanayana (Bratabandha) or marriage.

However, there are few Gurukuls which have been teaching Veda and Vedic skills for girls. Some teach only Brahman girls and others have been teaching inclusively. Brahman, Chhetri, Janajati, Madheshi, Tharu and Dalit girls have been learning Veda in the girls’ Gurukul as similar as boys’ Gurukuls do. The paper finds that a multiple ethnic group of the girls is being produced as female priests in Kathmandu.

This paper discusses on re-emerging Veda Vidyalaya in general and inclusive classes in girls’ Gurukul specifically.

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Work-related Migration Aspirations in Youths of Nepal: An Empirical Analysis
Ram Narayan Shrestha,
PhD Candidate, South Asian University, New Delhi, India

Abstract: There has been huge exodus of migration (both internal and international) in Nepal in recent time. The rural villages are ‘dying’ with only old people, children and women are left in the village. 27 of 75 districts has seen decline in the population in 2011 census as compared to 2001 census. Nepal Living Standard Survey 2011 shows that 53 percent of household has at least one absentee members. This has huge impact on the rural development. The mobility is highest among youths. The trend is ever increasing. The youth migration is increasingly linked to youth unemployment. The youth unemployment is very high in Nepal (19.2 percent) as compared to the general unemployment rate of 3.1 percent. This huge exodus of the youth has huge dynamic impact on the economy (both in positive and negative ways). So it is essential to understand why youth are interested to migrate.

The purpose of this study is to empirically investigate the determinants of the work-related migration aspirations among youths in Nepal. Among various determinants of the migration aspirations, I investigate how employment status and type (quality) of the employment affects migration aspirations in detail. This is more relevant in case of Nepal as where most of the labour migration taking place from Nepal is unskilled and semi-skilled. Whether it is better job opportunities that are attacking people or its compulsion that detrimental labour market prospect that are pushing people for migration. Apart from that the aspiration reflected by youth may represents their optimism or pessimism of the future prospect in their home country. This should be seen in the light of potential future migration and is related to the urbanization and rural development.

We use data from School-to-work-transition (SWTS) survey from International Organization of Labour (ILO), conducted in 2013, covering the youth of age 15-29 year-olds. The survey contains the information on various aspects of labour market conditions, history of economic activities and perceptions and aspirations of youths. Using multinomial logistic regression, we analyse the various determinants of the work-related youth migration aspirations. We analyse baseline model for whole sample including both employed and unemployed youths and two separate analyses for the employed and unemployed youths.

The study highlights effects of various individual characteristics, quality of job and personal perceptions in forming work-related migration aspiration formation among youths of Nepal. The study shows that employed youths have migration aspirations similar to that of unemployed youths. This study also highlights the quality of the job in migration aspiration formations. The findings of the study have policy implications.

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Irrigation, Power Relations and Social Inequalities
Romain Valadaud, PhD Candidate, Geography Institute, University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to argue that the articulation of two different perspectives on irrigation systems, the Hydrosocial Cycle and the Irrigation Studies, is a compelling way to shed some light on the production of the social reality and power relations in the Sunsari Morang Irrigation System, one of the biggest irrigation system in Nepal, situated in the Far Eastern Tarai.

There has been a long tradition of institutionalist irrigation studies in Nepal, well studied by the Nobel Price Elinor Ostrom and her team of researchers. However, many social scientists have since then criticized Ostrom’s views on irrigation, as well as the irrigation policies that have been drawn from her institutionalist approach, namely Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM). The main critic addressed to this theory is its lack of socio-historic depth, neglecting in its conclusions the importance of power relations and social inequalities in the access to irrigation water (Klooster, 2000; Mosse, 2003). Indeed, PIM has been known to not address inequalities in access to water, and sometimes increase them. Such a situation has been observed on some irrigation systems in Nepal and around the world (Manor, 2004; Pradhan, 2011).

In this paper, we look at irrigation management through the lenses of a historical constructivist approach. Constructivism sees social reality as the production of social interactions between actors taking into account the constraints of their social environment: actors are constrained by the social structures they interact in, but keep a reflexive capacity to act strategically to change or reproduce these social structures through time (Archer, 1995). More precisely, we will here use the constructivist theoretical framework of the Hydrosocial Cycle (Linton, 2010; 2014), showing that water issues are not made only of water, but also of interactions between different levels of actors (Candau et al., 2015). Thus, we wish to study first the intertwining between irrigation policies and social structures, and how this equation produces an irrigation management reality on the SMIS, often different from the theory, by replacing it in the historical dimension of the evolution of local political and social relations. Then, we focus on understanding how water policies are interpreted, integrated and transformed by local actors, for individual or group benefits. We will in the end try to show how the deconstruction and co-construction of the participatory discourse has allowed the reconstruction of the local political arena through the control of the irrigation water.

To balance this ontological approach of water management, often disconnected from the realities of the field, we follow in our work the attempt made by Mollinga (2013) to use Irrigation Studies as a socio-technical approach in order to balance the hydrosocial analysis. By focusing on the irrigation systems “from within”, this approach is able to feed field data to the mostly theoretical approach of Hydrosocial Cycle, and therefore helps us to conceptualize with more accuracy how “hydrosocial relations” are produced, reproduced and contested over a territory. By doing this, we hope to both further the theoretical research around water and society and contribute to improve the knowledge of water management in Nepal’s Taraï.


– Archer, M. (1995) Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
– Candau et al. (2015). “Construction de la plaine rizicole du Népal sous le prisme e la gestion de l’eau et des processus de territorialisation dans le Sunsari “. Espace Géographique 2015-2 [online].
– Klooster, D. (2000) “Institutional choice, community, and struggle: a case study of forest comanagement in Mexico”. World Development 28(1):1-20.
– Linton J. (2010) What is Water? The History of Modern Abstraction. UBC Press, Vancouver
– Linton J. (2014) “The hydrosocial cycle: Defining and mobilizing a relational-dialectal approach to water”. Geoforum 57: 170-180.
– Manor J. (2004). « User Committees: A Potentially Damaging Second Wave of Decentralisation? », European Journal of Development Research, vol. 16 n◦ 1, pp. 192-213.
– Mollinga, P. (2014). Canal Irrigation and the hydrosocial cycle, the morphogenesis of contested water control in the Tungabhadra Left Bank Canal, South India Geoforum 57:192–204.
– Mosse D. (2003). The Rule of Water: Statecraft, Ecology and Collective Action in South India. Oxford University Press, New Delhi.
– Pradhan P. (2011). Erosion of social capital. Farmer Managed Irrigation System Promotion Trust, Katmandou, Népal.

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MULIKI AIN: An Invisible Burden for Nepali in India
Sangay Tamang,
PhD Candidate, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, India

Abstract: Muliki Ain or Legal code of Nepal {1854} has politically transformed the ethnic and demographic configuration of Nepali society. Historically, this code has become a watershed moment in the formation of Nepali Hindu social hierarchy marked by the religious fundamentalism of Hinduism. It encompasses the entire population of (present day) Nepal into Hindu centric model of hierarchy irrespective of caste, ethnicity and geographical variation. To encapsulate this phenomenon, it can be said that the ‘forceful incorporation of hills tribes and many other non–Hindu groups under Hindu hierarchy to make Nepal a Hindu nation was one of the silent features of Muliki Ain (1854)’. However, over the course of history, there emerges a contending force to discard the political hegemony of the Hindu kingdom. It impounded upon the religiosity of ethnic groups in Nepal society and created a new notion of religious practices which didn’t completely fit within the popular Hindu category. Though the contemporary dynamics shows different picture of federal and secular Nepal fracturing the Hindu politics through anti Brahmin agitation trolled by janjati politics; the psychological impact of Hinduism still haunts the everyday negotiation of people’s living. This psycho- legacy of Hinduism as created by Muliki Ain has a deep cutting impact even on the minds of Nepali diaspora. One such case is found in Darjeeling Hills of West Bengal India, where community even though have settled generation ago has to negotiate still with Hindu practices which they carried along with their migration history from Nepal. These communities in India are fighting for recognition as Indian subjects through various mechanisms ranging from statehood to affirmative action (Schedule Tribe) policy in India. Thus this article is an attempt to show how Hinduism became a way of obstacle for communities from becoming “tribe” in post colonial India. Drawing data mostly from literature on Nepal history and muliki Ain as well as some informal interview with ethnic members in Darjeeling Hills West Bengal, this article would try to show “what Nepal means for people in Darjeeling today”.

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Gendered Citizenship: National Security versus Equality
Sanjay Sharma
, Master’s in Political Science, Central European University, Hungary; Neha Choudhary, Recruitment and Migration Manager, FSI Worldwide Limited Emp Nepal Pvt. Ltd.

Abstract: Membership to a nation-state and how it can be passed on to the subsequent generation of “eligible citizens” have been highly-contested issues throughout history. During the time when Nepal promulgated its constitution in 2015, the citizenship provision generated much dissatisfaction and debates given its discriminatory nature, particularly against women. One of the widely publicized debates was that between lawmaker and former Deputy Prime Minister Bhim Rawal, who is in complete support of the current provisions, and two women’s rights activists, Sapana Pradhan Malla (former lawmaker) and Aruna Upreti who vehemently opposed the discriminatory provisions. This paper aims to further explore this debate through the use of discourse analysis, basing the analysis on the op-eds and television interviews by the two sides, where, while Malla and Upreti stress on equal rights to citizenship while Rawal keeps defending the current provisions stating that it is in the best interest of national security and sovereignty.

The paper places this debate within the wider literature on gender and nation which contends that, historically, laws governing nation-states have largely been masculinist and have often served to marginalize women and delegitimize their agency. The new citizenship provision of the constitution deems that for an individual to be the citizens of Nepal, both the father and mother have to be Nepali citizens. This has been put forth instead of the “or” provision, which would have given independence to both the father and mother to pass on the citizenship. Concurring with Malla and Upreti, this paper argues that this replacement has established that the citizenship provision is gendered, guided by the heteronormative concepts of a family and has reinforced the patriarchal ideal of male domination in all spheres. Additionally, the paper also argues that the effects of the citizenship provision in its current form is widespread, excluding not just women but also single parents and LGBTs too.

In the course of exploring both sides of the debate, this paper will elaborate upon the prime issues that have emerged, namely immigration, the “threats” imposed by the open border that Nepal shares with India, the tradition of cross-border marriages and the consequent marginalization brought about by the implementation of the citizenship clause.

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Universal Human Rights versus Domestic Courts: Rethinking the Cultural Relativist Debate in Nepal
Shishir Lamichhane,
Research Officer, Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice, Nepal

Abstract: There has been a unipolar acceptance in the academic arena that there are some legitimate challenges to the universal application of international human rights regime. Interestingly, a huge number of scholarships on this debate have acknowledged that the foundation of universal human rights, that we know today, pledges a great deal to the western ideals and philosophies associated with the western culture and values. This has led cultural relativism as one of the most debated issues in the theories of human rights.

More disturbing is the historical record and the present world order that human rights has played a vital tool in the hands of USA and its allies in legitimizing their interventions in relatively weaker countries. This is yet more dangerous reality and challenge surrounding the human rights discourse; who should determine the violation of human rights and on what parameters is it to be measured? This leads to the main question that I attempt to analyze in this paper, shifting off from the debate of whether the human rights are universal in nature and indulging into the discourse of whether human rights should be universal.

In Nepal, moreover, with the state ratifying more human rights treaties, a huge number of organizations have been established to monitor and support the government implement those treaties. Therefore, a major scholarship has devoted to the status of implementation in Nepal of those treaties. This is merely looking at Nepalese society through the lens of United Nations and whether the Nepalese society is actually shaping as is required by the United Nations. This approach does not consider society as an equally important stakeholder in determining the rules by which they actually want to be governed.

Arguing for a the need of a contextual model of understanding about human rights, I make a case study of Kumari practice in Nepal. Having the practice legally challenged in the Supreme Court, I make a reflection upon the approach taken by the Supreme Court of Nepal with regards to the validity of universal human rights in Nepal.

Covering all these aspects, the paper is divided into three parts, excluding introduction and conclusion. The first section provides a brief insight into the concept of cultural relativism and other valid notions for this paper like the idea of Asian Values and the Right of Self-Determination, while the second part provides case laws from the Supreme Court of Nepal bearing refelctions of approaches taken by the honorable court with regards to the application of universal human rights in Nepal. The third setion paves way for the concluding remarks by providing case study of the Kumari practice in Nepal in favor of a contextual model of understanding of human rights regime.

Keywords: Cultural Relativism, Universal Human Rights, Kumari, Nepal

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Examining INGOs’ Support for the Education of Marginalised Girls in Nepal
Shristi Sijapati,
MSc. International Development, University of Manchester, UK; Damodar Khanal, Campaigner for Save the Children, UK

Abstract: Many I/NGOs have been found to show interest in contributing to girl’s education, especially the marginalised ones from the developing world. Nepal being one of the least developed with significant gender disparity, it is quite obvious that there is ample scope in this. However, in this regard, it becomes imperative to first question what barriers the marginalised girls from Nepal face in the process of getting education. Moreover, it is equally important to explore what kind of supports I/NGOs can best provide to these marginalised girls for their education.

This paper is written based on the master’s research during the authors M.Sc. course in International Development from the University of Manchester. This research focuses on the theme of providing educational support to marginalised girls through I/NGOs and tries to explore the main challenges in the process and make some suggestions for improving the current status.

This has been carried out through literature review on the topic at the global and national level as well as through primary data collection from interviews with suitable informants. Face-to-face and Skype interviews were conducted with education experts from Nepal and concerned project staffs and beneficiaries of the selected case. Information collected from these various sources were critically analysed and profoundly discussed. Finally, conclusions have been drawn and the recommendations have been made.

The research throws light on the challenges faced by I/NGOs in providing education to marginalised girls. It shows how education is influenced by a complex range of interconnected factors. It also reveals the challenges for including marginalised girls in education both within classrooms and outside the school gates, within families and communities. It also extracts some of the conclusions drawn and lessons learned from the experiences of Nepal and more specifically from the STEM project during the last three years of its support to marginalised girls in Kailali district of Nepal. Based on all these different sources of information, it even makes some specific recommendations focusing on all the actors in the educational community and the different elements of the educational sector. These recommendations include multiple strategies addressing the different level. Thus, for example, at the national level, suggestions have been made for poverty reduction and employment generation; at the district level, establishment of all-girls schools and development of grade-specific tests to test the learning has been suggested while, at the local level, expansion of Parents for Quality Education (P4QE), SLC support and other vocational trainings has been suggested.

Keywords: education, marginalised girls, I/NGO support, multiple strategies, Nepal.

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Anxiety, Assertion and the Politics of Naming: The Making of ‘Assameli- Gorkha’
Sumit Kumar Sarma,
Research Scholar, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, India

Abstract: Definition of the ‘self’ in the modern times is not just an individual’s quest for self-identification, but also a political statement of one’s status in the society. A sense of common origin, common beliefs and values, a common sense of survival; in other words a common cause has been a defining feature of mankind uniting themselves under various identities. On the basis of groups definitions of belonging mankind can develop complex formal systems of individual and group stratification. Hence, a great deal of one’s ‘self-definition’ or ‘self-identification’ depends on the nature of the polity and society where one belongs to.

The present paper attempts to analyse the (re)construction of a hybrid identity and its underlying process-both pedagogical and performative. Set in the province of Assam in the Northeast India, a region which has been understood and seen as a troubled one due to ethnic and secessionist conflicts since independence, this study explores a lesser known but persistent movement for ethnic redefinition amongst the ‘Nepali speaking Gorkha’ population of Assam. After facing years of displacement and discrimination, the community to a great extent has been accepted as an indispensable part of the greater ‘Assamese Society’ resulting into the birth of ‘Assameli-Gorkha’.

The importance of the study lies in the fact that when it comes to Northeast India, an extension of the eastern Himalaya-both geographically and culturally, which has an overwhelming ethnic diversity, despite the idea of reified and bounded ethnic categories, things tend to be more fluid, overlapping and messy on the ground. The region has been a battleground for ‘homeland’ politics where ‘origin’ of a community decides its fate- as indigenous or immigrant. The focus here is not on the most expressive and overt forms of ethnicity, but rather on the more subtle aspects of collective attachments and how such attachments change and modify over time.

The paper is informed by two major research questions:

1. What are the ways and means in which a hybrid identity is constructed spatially and symbolically and how is it disseminated to the people at large?
2. What are the factors that influence, support and at times forces a community to forge new terms of self-description.
3. How does a migrant- settler community (re)negotiate and (re)define its relationship with the land of its origin.

Methodology: The paper is based on ethnographic study of the community. A major part of the study will be based on in-depth elite interviews of leaders and ethnic activist of the ‘Axomiya- Nepali’ community. Primary sources of data include interviews with the members of political parties, ethnic organizations, youth bodies etc. Also, views of all those who are competent to throw light in this regard, such as intellectuals like academicians, artists, journalists and so on would be made use of in this study.

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Sit up to feed your baby and you will have no problem…An Explanatory Model of Childhood Ear Disease and Gender Inequality in Jumla
Susan Clarke,
PhD Candidate, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Australia

Abstract: My paper applies the explanatory model of illness to the maternal understanding of childhood ear disease in the district of Jumla and discusses these findings in the broader context of gender in Nepal. The explanatory model describes the way in which people understand the meaning, causes and consequences of their illness in their cultural context, and attempts to appreciate how the ‘social world affects and is affected by illness’. It is important to recognise a mother’s explanatory model for childhood illness as it helps determine her early recognition of symptoms, timing and type of health-care seeking, treatment completion and follow-up.

Chronic ear infections are a common preventable cause of deafness, chronic ill-health and, rarely, death in children in low resource settings, including Nepal. Childhood ear infections are so common, that they can seem normal and of low health priority. Acute ear infections are simple and inexpensive to treat, which prevents chronic infection, yet many children receive no assessment or intervention. Chronic ear infections are a disease of poverty and its social determinants; malnutrition, low parental education level, low parental income, overcrowding, lack of access to clean water and sanitation. The children most at risk of ear infections are also the ones with least access to health education, health care and research.

As part of a public health project I performed in depth semi-structured interviews with 17 Jumli women and a larger quantitative survey of 519 women and 937 of their children. All of the participants were subsistence farmers living in villages outside the district capital, most had not attended school and all were married with children in their household.

The commonest explanatory model of ear infections was that they were caused by milk going in the baby’s ear while the mother breastfed lying down. The belief that poor maternal feeding practices are responsible for ear infections is damaging as new mothers are often separated from their baby for a large part of the day while working in the fields, so considerable breastfeeding takes place at night while sleeping. Women in Jumla have very difficult lives, full of work and suffering and responsibility for their children’s ear infections is an undeserved additional burden. In fact, breastfeeding is protective against ear infections and prone feeding is irrelevant. I argue that in the context of gender inequality in Jumla, this is another example of control over women’s bodies, relationships and lives.

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Transformation in Gender Norms for Innovation and Development in Agriculture and NRM Sector: A Case Study of Jajarkot, Myagdi and Devdaha, Nepal
Sushila Chatterjee Nepali
and Kanchan Lama, Women Leading for Change in Natural Resources

Abstract: Innovation in agriculture and natural resource management (NRM) has always ignored gender inequality which limits in its impact and risks worsening the poverty, workload and wellbeing of poor rural women and their families. Prevailing deep-seated gender norms ¾ i.e. rules prescribing women’s and men’s roles and behavior in their society ¾ women and men have different capacities to take advantage of new opportunities in agriculture and natural resource management. In order to analyze the disparity in gender equality the study aimed to assess the transformation of gender norms in the sector of innovation and development of Agriculture and NRM in Tandi-Chitwan, Jagatpur-Jajarkot, Jheen-Myagdi and Devedaha-Rupandehi. The methodology features a comparative qualitative approach that is focus group discussion (FGD) among middle class, youth and women built on the World Bank global studies Voices of the Poor, Moving Out of Poverty, and On Norms and Agency. At the village level, case selection and classification was done based information on variation across two dimensions expected to shape interactions between gender norms, agency, agricultural and NRM innovation processes such as Gender gaps in assets and capacities and economic dynamism.

The result shows that Tandi had high gender and economic dynamism compared to Jagatipur, Jheen and Devdaha which had either high gender dynamism and low economic dynamism or both indicators very low. Understanding of equality among men and women also varied indicating that some of the women understood as equality meaning equal wage and work, while men thought they both have equal salary and have equal share of knowledge and ability to learn. There was differences in physical mobility pattern of young women and men of Devdaha, Tandi, Jagatipur and Jheen indicating rating of women’s decision over movement, the young women rated on average at 7.4% whereas the young men rated at 5.8% only. Further analysis presented the views on mobility of women and majority assessed that they find partial restriction on movement, some assessed partial movement with restriction and very few responded to have free movement. The result also showed the different trends in empowerment as reported in ladder of power and freedom by middle class men and women and young people 10 years ago and today indicating the change in gender norms for participation in decision making and innovative role in NRM. The research finding based on FGDs for knowing who could be a good innovator gender wise, most of the respondents mentioned that both men and women could be an innovator, but their capacity of innovation could differ. The results also assessed the capacities that hinder and support innovation among men and women. For all these transformation to happen in gender norms for innovation it was concluded that social cohesion is an important factor and discrimination reduced to participate in agriculture and NRM innovation and come out of poverty. Thus the overall finding indicates that transformation in gender equality norms could support in the development of innovation and policy strategy in the sector of agriculture and NRM.

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Citizen, Immigrant, Native: The Many Challenges of Being Nepali in Northeast India
Snehashish Mitra,
Research Assistant, Calcutta Research Group, India

Abstract: For most people living in Northeast India, any self-representation has to include the community they belong to. A person’s physical looks, accent and surnames are usually enough to establish where she/he is from. Persons, therefore, have almost become ciphers of the communities that they were born into. In a place where physical security is lax, this kind of affiliation is helpful for people who are vulnerable to threats. Moreover, many people fall outside the circle of such groups, more so when they are impoverished workers from outside the region. Vulnerability and security, therefore, are two sides of the same coin when it comes to the assertion (or articulation) of identity in the region. In that sense, all communities who live in Northeast India feel acutely vulnerable and those who are able, look inwards to provide security for their members.

The Nepali speaking community in the north bank of the Brahmaputra River are among the many in the region who are struggling to come to terms with the swiftly changing political realities. This is especially true in parts of western Assam’s Bodo Territorial Areas Districts (BTAD), where there is a significant number of Nepali-speaking people who are rendered vulnerable partly because of the language they speak, as also for their inability to mobilise along ethnic lines like others in the area. The historical presence of Nepali-speaking persons in the region has been studied at length and they are said to have move in large numbers during the 19th century, when they were working with the British Indian army and the many military levies that were raised to police Assam (Sinha and Subba 2003, Nath 2006). Many also settled in the foothills as graziers and over time had also moved into cleared forest areas in southern and south-eastern Bhutan. Many such Nepali-speaking denizens of Bhutan, known locally as Lhotshampas, were forced out of their homes between 1988 and 1993 and forced into refugee camps in Nepal (Hutt 2003).

The status of Nepali-speaking persons in the eastern Himalayan region (including Assam), has sometimes been fraught with tensions, partly because of the existence of the sovereign country Nepal. Poor knowledge of social history and unimaginative nationalist ethnic politics of language in the eastern Himalayan region, have led to the unfortunate targeting of Nepali-speaking persons in Bhutan, Meghalaya and Assam. People who spoke Nepali were forced out of parts of Assam and Meghalaya in the 1980s (Sinha and Subba 2003), even as the government of Bhutan would do the same in the early 1990s. In all instances, the presence of Nepali-speaking people were seen as a Trojan Horse for larger demographic and political changes that were taking place in the region (Prabhakara 2003).

This paper is based on the ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Bhutankhuti village within BTAD, predominantly inhabited by the Nepali community with a strong occupational history of cattle rearing. Through the narratives of the people the paper interrogates the many challenges of being a ‘Nepali’ in Assam and makes a causal link with the new regime of governance emerging in Northeast India under the pretext of Look and Act East Policy.

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Mi-Tse: Struggles of Dolpo Woman (Documentary, 45 min)
Tashi Tsering Ghale,
Independent Researcher

Abstract: There are several challenges that Dolpo Woman face in a present context. Her life is indeed primarily fixed upon by what and how her family decides and also later her-in-laws after her marriage. She finds her life fixed upon those decisions. This intricate understanding is hardly shared by many other people who directly and indirectly argue for the women equality with proper social justice. Mainly based upon one particular woman from Bharbhong, the documentary shot in the places of Nepalgunj, Dolpo and Kathmandu will try to show how her perspectives of struggles are understood by other people but from different demographic region including ethnicity and gender. This documentary will also be relevant for those scholars who try to understand the issues of gender in the genuine Himalayan communities.

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“Guns and Fences” Conservation in Asia?: The Origins and Evolution of Nepal’s Chitwan National Park
Thomas B. Robertson,
Associate Professor, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts, USA

Abstract: Nepal’s first national park, Chitwan National Park, offers a rich opportunity to study the relations between parks and people in South Asia. Founded in 1973, Chitwan Park falls within the Rapti Valley, an inner tarai valley. The Rapti Valley includes some of most important tall grasslands in the world, and an exceptionally high density of wildlife, including one-horned Asian rhinos, Indian tigers, wild elephants, and several species of deer. The Valley has also been home to a subset of one of Nepal’s largest ethnic minorities, the Tharu, shifting cultivators and cattle herders who had limited genetic and acquired immunities to the malaria that kept hill Nepalis away except in the winter months.

Little of the prodigious literature on the park has placed it in longer historical context. Drawing from the insights of environmental history, this paper will look at the park in the context of a shifting socio-ecological landscape from the nineteenth century onwards, with particular attention to Rana hunting, 1950s US development, and especially the changing regimes of wildlife protection since the mid 1960s, including buffer zones. It will examine how well the strict separation of humans and nature instituted in 1973 served a) the local communities and b) the region’s wildlife populations. Based on documents and interviews both in the U.S. and Nepal, this paper will examine the park from the perspectives of variously-situated actors: Kathmandu planners, American development workers, conservationists from the Western Europe, the U.S., and Nepal, tourism entrepreneurs, migrants to the area, and Tharu of various ages and social positions.

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Adivasi Body, Malaria, and the State in Nepal: Perspectives from Indigenous Historical Analysis

The Tarai of Morang, until the early 20th century, was reported to be “the most malarious
and unhealthy district” (Oldfield, 1881, p. 61-­‐622). While outsiders feared the malaria and harsh environmental conditions of the Tarai, the aboriginal inhabitants, the Tarai ādivāsi such as Dhimal, Meche, Tharu, Koch and others who survived malaria, transformed these seemingly “deadly places” into their home. For the 19thcentury Nepali state, the Tarai was a region to be exploited – for land, labor, revenue and political power – and, hence the malarial environment posed a major challenge for its colonizing project. But for the Tarai ādivāsi, the malarial environment, and their ability to survive it, provided them relative autonomy in evading the extractive landlord state. In what ways did malaria – both as an endemic condition and an image – mediate relationships between ādivāsi, outsiders, and the state in the Tarai? The paper attempts to address this question by focusing on Dhimal, one ādivāsi community from Nepal’s easternmost Tarai region of Morang and Jhapa. The primary data for this paper is based on my PhD dissertation research that I undertook between 2007-­‐2009 with the Dhimal community in Morang and Jhapa districts

In this paper, I will discuss how Dhimal understand and analyze their distinctive history of belonging in the Tarai region with reference to the region’s malarial environment in the past. I will foreground Dhimal perspectives and experiences to show how Dhimal cultural capacity and collective agency of thriving in malarial environment shapes their sense of ādivāsi identity and historical belonging in the Tarai. In doing so, this paper highlights the value and importance of indigenous historical analysis as central analytics in studying the changing state-­‐ādivāsi relationships vis-­‐à-­‐vis control of land. Since there is a dearth of scholarly works on social history of malaria in Nepal, this paper also contributes
in addressing this knowledge gap.

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