The Annual Kathmandu Conference on Nepal and the Himalaya – Kathmandu, Nepal

Individual Papers

Anisha Bhattarai
Research Associate, Social Science Baha, Kathmandu, Nepal
The Samdhis in Intermarriages: A Study of Evolving Marriage Practice Between Bahun and Newar
Badri Aryal, Durga Devkota, Prem Bhandari, Anoj Chhetri, Naba Raj Devkota
Agriculture and Forestry University, Nepal
Continuity and Change of Farming and Non-Farming Occupations in Between Father and the Son
Gaurav Shrestha
Education Counselor & Writer at Backbenchers™ Gurgaon, India
Rituals and Mediating Space/S (An Eclectic Approach): An Anecdotal (Re)Search for Festivals in Kathmandu Valley (Multiplicity of Ethnographic Instances)
Izumi Morimoto
Professor, Faculty of International Studies, Meiji Gakuin University, Yokohama, Japan
Transforming and Dispersing Sarangi; From Avatar of the Gandharba to Opportunity to Change Society
Jennifer Yanez-Alaniz
A poet and community activist, USA
Immigrant Communities, Sustainable Living and the Cielo (Community) Gardens: Bhutanese Refugees in San Antonio
Kirpa Ram Bishwakarma
Lecturer, Aathabis Education Campus, Aathabis Municipality-8 Dailekh, Nepal
Impacts of Contradictions Among Dalits for Peace-Building in Post-Conflict Nepal
Lopita Nath
Professor and Chair of the History Department, Coordinator of Asian Studies University of the Incarnate Word San Antonio, Texas
A Decade Later: Challenges and Success Stories of Bhutanese Refugee Resettlement in the United States
Mahendra Lawoti
Professor, Department of Political Science, Western Michigan University, USA
Nepali Federalism: Quasi, Pseudo or Real?
Manoj Suji
Senior Research Associate, Social Science Baha
Discourse of Post-Earthquake Heritage Reconstruction: A Case Study of Bhaktapur Municipality
Michael Baltutis
Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, USA
Containing, Confining, and Categorizing Indra: A Vedic Deity in Tantric Nepal
Nabin Maharjan
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Child and Youth Studies, Brock University, Canada
Nirdesh Shrestha
Trainer, Crystal Counseling Center
Palistha Sikhraka
Trainer/Counsellor, Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness (ECCA), Lalitpur, Nepal
Pratap Adhikari
Consultant, YouMe Nepal
Roji Maharjan
Former coordinator, Counseling Psychology and Social Studies College (CPSSC), Kathmandu
Sarada Rana Magar
Social Mobilizer, Association for Rural Welfare Nepal (ARSOW Nepal), Banepa, Nepal
Saurav Rajbhandari
Independent Filmmaker
Sujan Oli
Social Entrepreneur
Nepali Youth’s Community Engagement in the Post-Disaster Context: Myth or Reality?
Nabin Maharjan
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Child and Youth Studies, Brock University, Canada
Nirdesh Shrestha
Trainer, Crystal Counseling Center
Palistha Sikhraka
Trainer/Counsellor, Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness (ECCA), Lalitpur, Nepal
Pratap Adhikari
Consultant, YouMe Nepal
Roji Maharjan
Former coordinator, Counseling Psychology and Social Studies College (CPSSC), Kathmandu
Sarada Rana Magar
Social Mobilizer, Association for Rural Welfare Nepal (ARSOW Nepal), Banepa, Nepal
Saurav Rajbhandari
Independent Filmmaker
Sujan Oli
Social Entrepreneur
Applicability of Par in Nepalese Context: Nepali Youth Experiences in Studying Youth Community Engagement
Nabin Rawal
Lecturer, Central Department of Anthropology, Tribhuvan University
‘Expert Knowledge and Expertise in the Aftermath of April 2015 Nepal Earthquake’
Prabin Nanicha Shrestha, Nirmal Rijal
Equal Access International, Kathmandu, Nepal
Changing Dynamics of Radio Audience Interactivity in Nepal. ‘Audience Want Change! Radio Needs the Change!’
Pushpa Palanchoke
MA. Ethnomusicology, Department of Music, Kathmandu University, Nepal
Ratyaulī- Musical Sexual Socialization at Ghyachok
Rajiv Ghimire
PhD Student, Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University, Arizona, USA
Transdisciplinary Approach for Climate Change Adaptation: A Study of Gandaki River Basin
Richard Bownas
Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado, USA
Motivations for Christian Conversion Among Rural to Urban Migrants in the Kathmandu Valley
Sanae ITO
National Institute for the Humanities, Tokyo, Japan / Visiting associate professor, Graduate school of Asian and African Studies, Kyoto University, Japan
Memories and Mourning of the Gorkha Earthquake in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
Sanjeev Dahal
PhD Scholar in Social Work at Boston College, MA, USA
Political Conflict, Natural Disaster and Displacement of Children and Evolution of Institutional Care of Children in Nepal
Sanju Koirala
Senior Program Officer (Water, Energy and Gender), Policy Entrepreneurs Incorporated, Bakundole, Lalitpur, Nepal
Shristi Shakya
Research Associate, Policy Entrepreneurs Incorporated (PEI), Bakundole, Lalitpur, Nepal
Role of Migration in Driving Water Induced Disaster
Sarah Speck, Ulrike Müller-Böker
Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Population Aging and Family Change: Effects on the Living Conditions of Older People in Rural Nepal
Seika Sato
Teikyo University, Japan
From ‘Failed Development’ to ‘Inclusive Development’?: Views of Janajati and Dalit Women
Sese Ma
Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies Kyoto University, Japan
Neither ‘Pet’ Nor ‘Pest’: Exploring Individual Decision-Makings on Creative Usage of Space Among Himalayan Feral Dogs in Langtang, Nepal
Shak Bahadur Budhathoki
Education Coordinator, Mercy Corps, Lalitpur, Nepal
The Dynamics of Financial Accountability in Nepal’s Community Schools
Shrey Shahi
Doctoral candidate in History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
Some Aspects of Agrarian Challenges of Gorkahli Government: From Later Half of the 18th Century to the First Half of 19th Century
Srujay Reddy, Cheering Palkit, Aniket Alam
Associate professor & students, International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, India
Mapping the Chorten’s of Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Subodh Chandra Bharti
PhD. South Asian Studies, JNU, New Delhi, India
Foreign Policy of Nepal: Shifts and Opportunities
Suraj Kushwaha
Undergraduate Student, Princeton University, USA
Nation Building at Altitude: How the Indian Military Sustains War on the Siachen Glacier
Swosti Rajbhandari Kayastha
Lecturer, MA Museology and Buddhist Collection, Lumbini Buddhist University, Nepal
Museums Fulfilling a Socio-Political Cause
Tom Robertson
Former executive Director, U.S. Educational Foundation (Fulbright Nepal), 2017-2019.
Man-Made Jungles: How the Tharu Made the Chitwan and Bardiya Grasslands
Urmi Sengupta
Senior Lecturer and Director of Education, School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast, UK
(Un)Making of Tundikhel: Ruptured Space and Spatial Estrangement
Vishnu Tandon
PhD Candidate in Political Science, École Des Hautes Études En Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris, France
Towards Federal Democracy: Participatory Planning in Post – War Federal setting of Nepal
Young Hoon Oh
Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, University of California, USA
Social Connectivity: ‘New’ Sherpas and the Recent Evolution of Himalayan Mountaineering
Yutsha Dahal
Researcher,Nepal Picture Library, Kathmandu, Nepal
In Search of the Missing Images: Analysing a Feminist Shift in Visual Culture in Nepal


Panel 1: Meeting the Challenges: Survival Strategies of the Bhutanese Refugees in the United States
Refugee resettlement in the United States has been at the center of the recent debates on immigration. According to the 1951 Geneva Convention, Third Country resettlement is one of the durable solutions to a refugee crisis. One such successful resettlement was that of the 90,000 Bhutanese refugees in the United States. The papers in this panel will attempt a cross-disciplinary approach to examining the survival strategies of the Bhutanese refugees resettled in the United States and San Antonio, Texas in particular. The Bhutanese have adapted to life in America assimilating to the American system as best as they can. Whether it is through participating in community urban farming, or other community events, the Bhutanese refugees have found a strategy of not only integrating into the new American culture, but also keeping their own culture and traditions alive.The Bhutanese refugees draw on their strengths and  also the vulnerabilities that they brought with them, in negotiating the issues of citizenship, home and identity in this foreign country. Like other immigrant communities in San Antonio, the stories of the Bhutanese refugee experience in America have the ability to empower, integrate and preserve their identity in this foreign land. Through the use of ethnographic research methods, the authors who are from different disciplines have put together a colourful and anecdotal account of Bhutanese refugee resettlement in America. The research concludes that even though the Bhutanese refugees have faced many challenges, their success stories indicate that they are well on their way to becoming an important and productive community in the United States.

Paper 1: A Decade Later: Challenges and Success Stories of Bhutanese Refugee Resettlement in the   United States
Author: Dr. Lopita Nath
Affiliation: Professor and Chair of the History Department, Coordinator of Asian Studies University of the Incarnate Word San Antonio, Texas, USA
Since 2008 almost 96, 000 Bhutanese refugees have been resettled in the United States of America. After 20 years or more in refugee camps in Nepal and several failed negotiations by the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees to repatriate the refugees back to Bhutan, third country resettlement became the only solution. After the first wave of arrivals, Bhutanese refugees began to arrive in large numbers, until last year when only about 7,000 refugees have remained in the two of the seven camps in South eastern Nepal. A decade of resettlement, and one of the greatest success stories of third-country resettlement, was still fraught with questions. Was resettlement easy? The Resettlement agencies provide assistance and aid to the refugees to start their life in the United States. However, despite the efforts to help them achieve self-sufficiency, the Bhutanese refugees face innumerable complexities, like the language barrier, unemployment, inability to find jobs commensurate to their educational qualifications, and the problems of adjustment faced by the elderly, including the high rate of suicide among them, which stand in the way of an easy resettlement. There is also the question of the Bhutanese youth and the effects of a western/American life on them. On the flip side, there are many success stories of the refugees. In 2019 A Bhutanese Refugee was elected to the District Council in Columbus, Ohio, the children are being successful in school and carving out successful careers, the middle aged are settling down in jobs and successful businesses, while making sure that they are taking care of the elderly. The Bhutanese refugees come with the advantage of the English language and a strong desire to be successful. Many of them have overcome the odds and cultural barriers and have made a success of their lives in the United States. The paper will focus on the challenges of resettlement among the Bhutanese refugees. Life in America for the refugees has been challenging. The Bhutanese refugees bring with them specific cultural and psychological vulnerabilities, which require careful approach for successful resettlement.

What have been the coping strategies of the Bhutanese in America? How has the success of some affected those who are lagging behind? How are these refugees negotiating the issues of cultural differences, citizenship, home and identity in their new home? A decade later, an assessment of the Bhutanese refugee resettlement in America reveals a story of resilience, brotherhood and community building, to ensure a balanced life in the U.S.  While they assimilate structurally by participating in American institutions and American life, culturally and socially they have retained an element of nostalgia in recreating aspects of their homeland in their new home, which gives something to the different generations of Bhutanese-Nepalis to hold onto, in a land far from home.

Paper 2: Immigrant Communities, Sustainable Living and the CIELO (Community) Gardens: Bhutanese Refugees in San Antonio
Author: Jennifer Yanez-Alaniz
Affiliation: A poet and community activist, USA
Federal refugee policy calls for quick self-sufficiency for families and individuals resettled in the United States, causing families to transition quickly into a culture markedly different from life in camps set up in Nepal. Refugees are a particularly vulnerable population who suffer abrupt nutritional adjustments resulting from forced migration. This research explores how participating in community food gardening supports Bhutanese refugees’ overall integration with their new country while still maintaining cultural identity through food-growing and maintaining a diet rich with traditional meals.  This qualitative study explores the preservation of traditional culture among Bhutanese families who together grow fruits and vegetables in garden plots within an ethnically and culturally diverse community at an urban farm located in San Antonio, Texas. Considerable and ongoing research is being done primarily through ethnographic study with attention to the effects of resettlement on physical and social environments, diet, physical activity, income and access to healthcare.

Through informal conversations with nine individuals who garden with family and extended family units in San Antonio, we found that community garden participants hold familial agricultural land use and community belonging as very important benefits throughout the transition process. Community food gardens offer a real way for refugees to stay connected while building and expanding community in their new homes. This is significant given the increasing recognition of the importance of social connectedness, as well as community inclusivity, for overall wellbeing.

What this research aims to show is how Bhutanese families fare over time as they navigate through integrating American and Bhutanese cultures. Findings show that Bhutanese resettled in the US integrate well into their new communities after being in the United States for several years. Bhutanese refugees are in many regards similar to their U.S.-born neighbors, with similar rates of labor force participation, post-secondary education, and homeownership, despite challenges stemming from backgrounds of living in refugee camps, sparse educational opportunities, inability to work outside of the camps, and overall impoverished environments.  The large majority have improved or acquired English language skills after being in the country for several years and have become naturalized U.S. citizens at the early points of eligibility. In the long run, all attain varied levels of integration, and refugees who arrive as children and grow up in this country, show even more significant success.

We continue to observe and  consider open-ended  reflection focusing on the following topics: 1) changes in  parenting styles and values, 2) the preservation of  language of origin,  3) identity through food, music, and spirituality, and 4) changes in family systems and extended family, through the positive effects of gardening at CIELO Urban Farm regarding dietary transitions associated with changes in physical and social environments, physical activity, income, access to healthcare, and psychological and emotional well-being.

Panel 2: Heritage, Expertise, and Diaspora Dynamics in Nepal’s Post-Earthquake Reconstruction
This panel presents two papers emerging from a multi-year, transdisciplinary international research project, Expertise, Labour and Mobility in Nepal’s Post-Conflict, Post-Disaster Reconstruction (based at University of British Columbia with funding from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council). Each paper considers the reconstruction process through a specific lens: heritage, expertise, and the role of diaspora communities. These two papers have been workshopped together and received feedback from a diverse group of colleagues from various disciplinary perspectives.

Papers 1: Discourse of Post-Earthquake Heritage Reconstruction: A Case Study of Bhaktapur Municipality
Author: Manoj Suji
Affiliation: Senior Research Associate, Social Science Baha, Kathmandu, Nepal
The 2015 Nepal’s earthquakes caused massive losses of human lives, economy and physical infrastructures as well as cultural heritage. According to the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment Report, approximately 2,900 historical, cultural, religious monuments and heritage sites including World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley were damaged. When the formal reconstruction program began, major heritage sites of Kathmandu Valley including Bhaktapur Durbar Square, garnered much attention of national and international stakeholders such as Department of Archaeology and UNESCO, donors and heritage activists. However, heritage reconstruction became one of the most contested domains, especially in Bhaktapur Municipality, mainly due to the enforcement of international guidelines over local autonomy, historical and cultural identity in heritage reconstruction. Through several months of ethnographic work in 2018 and 2019 from Bhaktapur Municipality, in this paper we address three major questions: How did the dynamics of international and national laws, municipal guidelines, and involvement of different stakeholders affect heritage reconstruction? What approach did community members want to follow for heritage reconstruction and why? Why did Bhaktapur Municipality want to revive the Malla-period architecture through heritage reconstruction? Through a consideration of these questions, we argue that UNESCO guidelines adopted by the Department of Archaeology seem narrow in defining heritage and capturing people’s sentiment about their history and cultural values, which has led to contestations over heritage reconstruction. Conflicts are also caused and fueled due to the new policies and guidelines introduced by the federal government and the constitutional rights granted to the local authorities. The Local Government Operation Act 2017 allowed Bhaktapur Municipality to redefine their cultural identity and with such rights the municipality opposed the UNESCO guidelines for heritage reconstruction and opted for their own designs to revive Malla-period architectures. Likewise, community members preferred user’s group-led reconstruction, claiming that such approach would not only ensure deep sense of ownership of their historical and cultural identity, but also enhance transparency and quality reconstruction. The desire of Malla-period architecture was not only fostered by the awareness of identity politics; it was also means of resisting centralised power over their local autonomy.

Paper 2: ‘Expert Knowledge and Expertise in the Aftermath of April 2015 Nepal Earthquake’
Author: Nabin Rawal
Affiliation: Lecturer, Central Department of Anthropology, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Two major Nepal earthquakes in 2015 not only killed nearly 9,000 people but also caused massive damages in physical infrastructures, about 800,000 private houses and 6,278 government buildings. For the purpose of post-earthquake reconstruction within the notion of ‘Build-Back-Better’, Government of Nepal formed various forms of institutions, laws and policies and technical expertise. The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) was formed in August 13, 2015 in coordination with relevant government ministries and numerous partner organizations (POs). As part of this post-earthquake reconstruction, NRA trained various engineers, sub-engineers, supervisors, field engineers and masons with the aim to produce technical human resources to assist the private housing reconstruction. Alongside, NRA has also deployed trained engineers circulating of new forms of expertise and large numbers of experts in rural areas of Nepal. Much of this flurry of activities centres on the profession of engineering—its forms of knowledge, technical practices and its personnel. Given this context, based on several months’ ethnographic work in Bhaktapur, Dhading and Sindhupalchowk in 2018, this paper seeks to understand how “expertise” in the form of professional engineering practice is deployed on the ground and in so doing, the paper also explores how the contemporary state with all its attendant institutions emerge as potent forces in people’s everyday lives (Harvey and Knox, 2015: 4) and how this disaster governance (cited in Tierney, 2012: 344) is navigated by the local people, not as passive beneficiaries but as active agents in the face of reconstruction activities. In so doing, the paper will also shed light on the grounded experiences of various actors as they go about their “re-construction” activities.