Panel: Nepali Diasporic Identity in the Context of Multiculturalism
With no history of indentured labour, or displacement caused by partition, or even of the trauma of colonialism; it may be easy to overlook the Nepali diaspora within the rubric of South Asian diasporic literature. If South Asian diaspora foregrounds multiple positioned identities and legitimises cross-cultural habitation; where and how does the Nepali diaspora fail to make its presence in this South Asian turf, both in academia and otherwise? What is Nepali diaspora and ‘Nepaliness’ (Nepalipana)? With such primary objectives, this three-member Panel would like to explore this poignant ambivalence within the Nepali diasporic citizens between the physical return to their homeland and the attachment to their new land of economic welfare and freedom through intersections between Multiculturalism and Diaspora in contemporary Nepali writers writing in English. Life threatening and poor working conditions, stolen wages, indignity and lack of compensation are some of the vagaries that every Nepali diasporic worker faces. Such trauma is best explored by contemporary Nepali writers writing in English whose works dabble with Nepali identity, space, home and nation. These writers include Manjushree Thapa, Samrat Upadhyay, Sushma Joshi, Rabi Thapa, Greta Rana, to name a few. This three-member Panel would focus on how with the onslaught of globalization and multiculturalism, construction of identity often becomes a vexed issue. Paper I titled ‘The Diasporic Imaginary in Contemporary Nepali Writings in English’ would adopt a qualitative and interpretative methodology to explore how these contemporary writers writing in English have highlighted the angst of being Nepali Diasporic citizens despite their immense contribution to both their home and host nations. Paper II titled ‘Nativisation of Nepali Identity in Manjushree Thapa’s Select Texts’ by Prayas Gupta will attempt to examine the writing technique of eminent author Manjushree Thapa who has added a new dimension to Nepali English Literature through the nativisation technique. This paper is an attempt to examine the practice of nativising techniques in Manjushree Thapa’s literary work which is a unique creative oeuvre. Paper III is titled ‘Tracing Cultural Identity in Diasporic texts of Samrat Upadhyay’ where the speaker Bhaskar Chettri will analyse noted Nepali writer Samrat Upadhyay’s writings as texts depicting ‘assimilation’ and ‘acculturation’ of cultures thereby adding a new depth to Nepali English literature. In these texts, the politics of difference and acknowledgement are examined in order to highlight the cultural diversity of Nepal and its people.
Chair/Convener: Rosy Chamling, Head, Department of English, Sikkim University, India
Author: Rosy Chamling
Affiliation: Head, Department of English, Sikkim University, India
Paper Title: The Diasporic Imaginary in Contemporary Nepali Writings in English
The term ‘diasporic imaginary’ was coined by the Indian critic Vijay Mishra (Textual Practice: 1996) to suggest that the people who identify themselves as part of a diaspora are creating an imaginary space whereby their dreams and fantasies may get fulfilled denied to them in actual living. Diasporic citizens contribute to building multicultural societies and in this light multiculturalism assume the peaceful coexistence of different communities with equal civil and political rights. However, several right-wing European politicians across the world critique multiculturalism as a social policy as it is often deemed to challenge national homogeneity. Under such circumstances, there is a need to rethink diasporic identity vis-à-vis multiculturalism as most often the host nation does not provide a space or voice for the minoritised community. Similarly Nepali diasporic citizens have worldwide faced exploitation and ignominy. Consider the number of Nepali migrant workers exploited and killed in the construction of stadiums in Qatar for the mega sporting 2022 FIFA event; or the more recent incident of 30th December 2022 where the Nepali citizen Nirakar Pandey lost his life in Cambodia caused by a fire in a casino where he worked for, whose video he shared hours before he died, has caused the heartbreak of all Nepali speaking populace worldwide. Although, the country is still heavily dependent upon foreign remittances sent from abroad; Nepali migrants are looked upon as deserters of the national cause. National figures state the Nepali diaspora sent US $ 8.1 billion as remittance to Nepal in 2020, representing about 24% of Nepal Gross Domestic Product (The World Bank, 2020). The outbreak of Covid resulted in the decline of 5% in remittance receipt in 2022 compared to 2021, revealing how these foreign remittances do contribute to National development. This paper would also discuss how Nepali Diaspora still remains at the margins of South Asian Diaspora and how these texts are relegated to being just ‘minor texts’. It would also focus on how ‘Multiculturalism’ can be used to construct a culturally pluralist identity but have failed in its integrationist aspirations. Similarly, ‘Diaspora’ is used as a ‘trope for nostalgia’ (Soysal 2000: 13), and using the metaphors of roots, soil and kinship, Nepali identity can be seen to be fraught with tension. This paper would argue how contemporary Nepali writings in English are spearheaded by a group of foreign educated/settled Nepali writers who have themselves negotiated the conundrum of class, caste and gender to forge a distinct diasporic imaginary space whereby the Nepali identity can be interrogated.
Keywords: Nepali Diasporic Imaginary, Identity, Multiculturalism, Minor Texts
Author: Prayash Gupta
Affiliation: Assistant Professor, Sikkim Manipal University, India
Paper Title: Nativisation of Nepali Identity in Manjushree Thapa’s Select Texts
The nativisation process of local culture and identity is a visible phenomenon in English literature. The glocalisation of English literature is getting a higher fly with the evolution and rise of English literary figures from different cultural and national spectrums. The multicultural twist of the global society is adding a multicultural flavour to English writings; along with it, English literature is rapidly in the process of nativisation. In this regard, Nepali- English literature is also not exceptional. In recent times, the nativisation of Nepali identity and culture with the aid of Nepali words and usage in Nepali-English literature is not unknown. The growth of Nepali-English literary figures is promoting the practice of nativisation of English literature into the Nepali culture and identity. This trend is prominently visible in the text of Nepali-English writer Manjushree Thapa.
The paper attempts to investigate the writings of Manjushree Thapa, i.e., Seasons of flight (2010), All of Us in Our Own Lives (2012), and Tilled Earth (2016). In the selected text for study, and her other text like Mustang Bhot in Fragments (1992), The Tutor of History (2001), Forget Kathmandu (2005), The Lives we have lost (2011), and A Boy from Siklis (2013), Thapa centres her native land Nepal, and its citizens. Her writings portray multiculturalism in the period (post-1990s) when Nepal entered a democratic phase in a multicultural society with its ever evolving diasporic citizens striking roots in a globalised world. What makes her writings distinct is her employment of nativising technique which has made her one of the prominent writers of Nepali English writing. However, this aspect of her writing is sparsely addressed in the academic circle. Similarly, the entire discussion of the trend of nativisation of Nepali identity and culture in Nepali-English literature is found seldom referred to in scholarly discourse. This proposed work attempts to answer the pertinent questions i.e., (a). How does Manjushree Thapa construct a Nepali identity in her creative work? (b). How does Nativising Technique add to the definition of Nepali culture? Manjushree Thapa locates the chronicle of Nepal, its topographical description, its rich multicultural scenario, its customs, and traditions through her writing, highlighting distinct Nepali identity in her texts. The selected text for the study will be narratively analysed and interpreted along with other secondary sources.
Author: Bhaskar Chettri
Affiliation: PhD candidate, National Institute of Technology Sikkim, India
Paper Title: Tracing Cultural Identity in Diasporic Texts of Samrat UpadhyayAbstract:
The paper analyses three texts by an eminent diasporic author of Nepal, Samrat Upadhyay – Buddha’s Orphan (2010), Mad Country and Royal Ghost – from the outlook of cultural diversity and diaspora. The texts were published following Nepal’s declaration as a Federal Democratic Republic Nation. Upadhyay tracks the protagonists’ lives in Buddha’s Orphan over the course of nearly five decades, from the 1960s to 2010. In the background of a monarchical government, the evolution of a constitutional monarchy is explored. The political confrontation between the King and the Maoists, the assassination of the royal family, and its repercussions are all described in the novel. The narrative also follows the cultural diversity and politics of acceptance and integration following the establishment of democracy. Raja, the protagonist of the novel, was abandoned by his mother after she committed suicide. The attraction between socially fortunate Nilu and the less fortunate Raja represents the dynamics of class society in Nepal. They meet up again in high school, fall in love, and finally move in together regardless of their differences. As their son dies because Nilu is unable to provide him with the required medical attention because of a political demonstration that blocked the road, Raja’s political interests and his participation in political rallies face a stinging irony. When their daughter travels to study in the USA, the transnational culture of that country is represented. Later, once his daughter stops all communication with them, Raja travels there in search of her. In Mad Country, through seven short stories and a novella, Samrat explores the recurring themes of animosity, racism, political power, and the disillusionment of love. The subject matter of the narrative includes Nepali culture in the USA, class dynamics in Nepal, and governmental corruption in the country. Upadhyay investigates political strife in Nepali society and its effects on the average citizen in Royal Ghost. The horrific Maoist insurgencies that have claimed thousands of lives serve as a backdrop as the text’s characters struggle with their commitments to their ageing parents, a strict caste system, and the challenges of being in an arranged marriage. The study will employ narrative interpretation and discussion as its methodology. The proposed work therefore aims to provide relevant answers to following queries: (a) How does Samrat Upadhyay, as a Nepali diasporic writer explore the theme of regime change in his texts? (b) How does the literary work by Samrat Upadhyay, when interpreted uncover the nuances of Nepali culture and society?