Newar Women of Kirtipur: Analyzing Their Collective Identity
The word ‘Newar’ today is commonly used to indicate the people living in the Kathmandu valley and those who speak the Newar (Nepal Bhasa) language as their mother tongue in any part of the world (Shrestha, 2012). However, being Newar or the process of “Newar-ness” is associated with the historical movements of Nepal. The 1768-9 conquest of Kathmandu valley by Parbatiya Hindu King and the 18th Century policy emphasizing Nepali speakers placed Newars into a subordinate status (Toffins, 2007). Finding themselves ranked below Parbatiya equivalents reinforced Newars to develop their homogenous entity despite having their own complex internal caste hierarchies (Gellner, 1997). This process initiated a unique socio-cultural mosaic where Newars could coexist with their distinct tangible and intangible heritages. As a result, Newars succeed to sustain its distinct identity and cultural practices (Mangar, 2019). Newar women also played a crucial role in sustaining socio-cultural heritages by actively engaging themselves like men in every socio-cultural practice such as divinity worship. However, their contributions in preserving the heritage are undervalued or have been dominated by male-centric communal discourse and practices (Toffins, 2007). This paper thus analyzes how the existing socio-cultural practice of Newar women is contributing to sustain the collective identity by using social construction perspectives.
This paper is primarily a section of my Master’s thesis Social Construction of Newar women of Kirtipur. A Narrative Inquiry (qualitative methodology) was used to answer how Newar Women’s socio-cultural practiced in the household and community has constructed collective identity? Data generated from Life story interview, participatory observation and reflection of my own lived experience as a Newar Woman of Kirtipur were used for this study.
Keywords: collective identity, collective action, Newar women