Day 1: 23 July

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23-25 July, 2014, Hotel Shanker, Lazimpat
(organised by Social Science Baha, The Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies
& Britain-Nepal Academic Council)  

Day 1: 23 July (Wednesday)
9 – 11 am
Panel 1A
Durbar Hall 
Panel 1B
One-Eyed Hall 
Opening remarks: Nirmal Man Tuladhar, Chair, Social Science Baha
Opening remarks: Mahendra Lawoti, Former President, The Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies
Chair: Pratyoush Onta, Martin Chautari, Nepal
Chair: Janak Rai, Lecturer, Tribhuvan University, Nepal 
Binayak Sundas
PhD Candidate, Centre for Historical Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
Liana Chase
MSc Candidate, Division of Social and Cultural Psychiatry, McGill University, Canada
Madhu Neupane 
Vermont Bhutanese Association, USA
Beyond “Psychosocial”: The Social Ecology of Care in Two Bhutanese Refugee Communities
Shankar Ghimire
Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics, Division of Social Sciences, Maryville College, USA
Aid, Aid-for-Trade, and Nepal
Nawaraj Upadhaya  
PhD Candidate, Utretch University, Netherlands
Ria Reis
Geographies of Adolescent Distress in Nepal
Mahendra Lawoti
Professor, Department of Political Science, Western Michigan University, USA
Competing Nationhood and Constitutional Instability: Representation, Regime, and Resistance in Nepal
Rachel Amtzis
Research Coordinator, FASS Research Clusters, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Cyber-Urban Environmental and Heritage Revitalization Communities and Movements in the Kathmandu Valley
Discussant: Dambar Chemjong, PhD Candidate (Anthropology), Cornell University, USA
Discussant: Susan Boser, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA
BREAK: 11 – 11:30 am (Kailash Hall, Ground Floor) 
11:30 am – 1:30 pm
Panel 2A    
Durbar Hall
Panel 2B
One-Eyed Hall
Chair: Laurie Vasily, Executive Director, Fulbright Commission Nepal 
Chair: Michael Hutt, Professor, Nepali and Himalayan Studies; and Chair, Centre of South Asian Studies, SOAS, UK 
Sanjay Sharma
Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility, NepalManoj Paudel
Shreemanjari Tamrakar 
Michael Baltutis
Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies & Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, USA
Kristie Drucza
PhD Candidate (Social Protection), Deakin University, Australia
‘If I Say Left, the Government will Go Right’: Dalit Perceptions and Experiences of Governance and Social Protection in Three Villages in Sarlahi, Nepal
Bryony Whitmarsh
Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of Portsmouth, UK
Staging Memories at the Narayanhiti Palace Museum
Prakriti Thami, Sanjay Sharma
Neha Choudhary
Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility, Nepal
Money Speaks: The Effects of Remittances on Caste-Based Discrimination
Katsuo Nawa
Professor (Cultural Anthropology), Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo, Japan 
On Three Basic ‘Ritual’ Gestures in Byans, Far Western Nepal
Discussant: Sambriddhi Kharel, Senior Research Fellow, Nepā School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Nepal
Discussant: Janak Rai, Lecturer, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
LUNCH: 1:30 – 2:30 pm (Kailash Hall, Ground Floor)
2:30 – 4:30 pm 
Chair: Hari Sharma, Social Science Baha, Nepal  
Lok Ranjan Parajuli
Martin Chautari, Nepal
‘A University for the Nation’s Survival?’: A Story of the Failed Attempt to Establish a University in Nepal
Pratyoush Onta
Martin Chautari, Nepal
Seira Tamang
Martin Chautari, Nepal
“Sikkimization” and Gendered Anxieties of Nepali Sovereignty
Discussant: Shyamu Thapa Magar
TEA: 4:30 pm onwards (Kailash Hall, Ground Floor)


Panel: Historically Situating Knowledge Activities in the Interstices of Change in Nepal
Panel Abstract: This panel situates instances of knowledge activities in the historical interstices of change in Nepal.   From the initiative in the late Rana period to establish a university, to the circulation of research in the immediate post-Rana period to the creation of the “sikkimization” concept during the political turmoil of the mid-1970s, these papers seek to expand upon common-held assumptions of specific historical activities.  Through historically based analyses with analytically divergent lenses, these papers reengage with history in the interstices of change to bring to the fore a fresh re-examination of their implications.

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Paper 1: ‘A University for the Nation’s Survival?’: A Story of the Failed Attempt to Establish a University in Nepal
Lokranjan Parajuli,
Martin Chautari, Kathmandu

Paper Abstract: Nepal’s first university, Tribhuvan University, was established in 1959, which is pretty well known fact to those who are interested in Nepal’s education system. What however is not known to the most is the earlier effort(s) to establish a university in Nepal. Surprised many would perhaps be if one were to say that the first of such effort was made during the (late) Rana era—a period known for its effort to control education rather than propagating it among the masses. The last among the Rana rulers, Mohan Shamsher, in his sindooryatra (accession to throne) speech announced (in May 1948) that a university would be established in Nepal. The announcement becomes more surprising given the restrictions (re)imposed during his reign in accessing and propagating education for the masses as well as in exercising civil liberties—however feebly available they be during his predecessor Padma Shamsher’s reign. This paper seeks to understand this apparent paradox primarily by seeking to answer the following two questions: What was the imperative for the otherwise allegedly anti-public education ruler to take a lead in establishing a university? And, why and how was the all-powerful ruler’s personal project aborted? In answering these and related questions, this paper narrates the story of the first attempt to establish a university, situating the exercise in larger national and international politics. While there were a number of internal political factors calculated by the Rana ruler such as increased oppositional political activities, I argue that rather than the national as key catalyst, readings of international political factors by the Rana ruler(s) compelled him to take the initiative of establishing the university. Of central importance here is the growing nationalization (read Hindi-ization) project/ discourse of pre and post independence India. This included the proposals for the vernacularization of Indian universities as well as the phasing out of English as the official language within “five” years. This led to cross-border fears that the resulting need to rely on Hindi or regional languages of India would threaten the existence of Nepali language and concomitantly the existence of the Nepali nation. This paper relies mostly on archival materials, particularly, three papers/journals published from Nepal: Gorkhapatra, Sharada and Nepal Shiksha published during Mohan Shamsher’s rule (i.e., 2005-2007 v.s.). Gorkhapatra is the state-owned tri-weekly and the only newspaper of the country. I looked at the microfilmed copies of Gorkhapatra of that period. The other paper that I consulted is Sharada, the leading literary journal of that period. I also studied various issues of Nepal Shiksha, the mouthpiece journal of the Department of Education. Since the Nepali university discourse drew heavily from (or rather influenced by) the language discourse in India of that period, I also looked at the debates and discussions of the Constituent Assembly of India, the report of the first university commission of India, and secondary literature related to the discourse.

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Paper 2: Nepal Sanskritik Parisad and the Circulation of Research in Immediate Post-Rana Nepal
Pratyoush Onta, Martin Chautari, Kathmandu 

Paper Abstract: The end of Rana rule in 1951 was an important rupture in the history of social science research in Nepal. The scholar of literature and history Kamal P. Malla (1970) has characterized the 1950s in the following manner:

The post-1950 decade in Nepal is characterized, in the first place, by a sense of release and emancipation of the intellect from a century-old political and priestly yoke, and in the second place, by an unprecedented expansion of intellectual and cultural opportunities. The decade can aptly be called a decade of extroversion. For it was a decade of explosion of all manner of ideas, activities and organized efforts.

The political and civil freedoms that became available to Nepali citizens after the end of Rana-rule allowed for the possibility of many experiments in the domain of, as Malla suggests “ideas, activities and organized efforts.”  These experiments included some serious ventures in research about Nepal in the non-governmental and private sectors. It would not be possible to provide a comprehensive review of all of these initiatives in the span of this paper. However, I will present a history of one such experiment of Nepal Studies within Nepal during the immediate post-Rana years.

Not even three months had passed since the end of Rana Rule when efforts to establish an organization dedicated to studies of Nepal were begun. Such an entity was eventually founded before the close of 1951 and it was called the Nepal Samskritik Parisad (NSP). Its founders were some of the most influential Nepali writers, researchers and politicians at that time. NSP’s main objective, as mentioned in its constitution was “the overall development of Nepali culture and to do research on ancient past subjects.” During the 1950s, NSP became a platform for research and publications as well as an experiment in an organized effort between some newly freed citizens of Nepal and an erstwhile leading member of the Rana oligarchy.

In this paper I argue that the founding of the NSP had largely taken place as part of the larger utopian project of cultural revival in immediate post-Rana Nepal. I also demonstrate how multiple interests and influences came to bear upon the NSP’s formation and activities. By looking at linkages between NSP and similar nascent research formations, this paper also sheds some light on the early circulation of research in Nepal. This paper is thus a contribution to the history of intellectual activities in Nepal during the 1950s and it enhances our understanding of the lives and agency of some specific individuals who have left their footprints in the history of academic production in Nepal.

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Paper 3: “Sikkimization” and Gendered Anxieties of Nepali Sovereignty
Seira Tamang, Martin Chautari, Kathmandu 

Paper Abstract: Discussions about women in Nepal, especially in tracing contributions to the nation and democracy, almost always emphasize women’s participation in democracy movements, opposition politics and various leadership positions.  Thus for example, there are numerous histories that trace the role of various women from Yog Maya Neupane onwards.  These histories are very important contributions because they are rarely covered by mainstream histories which are usually written by men.  However, they leave untouched the important relationship between gender, nation and nationalism.  The use of gender here refers not to biological differences between males and females, but to a set of culturally shaped and defined characteristics associated with masculinity and femininity. Feminist scholarship has shown how gendered power politics underlie ideas of nations and the politics of nation-building and how nationalist movements and nationalism rely on patriarchal ideas of masculinity and femininity for their success. 

In an attempt to begin a conversation on understanding the gendered aspects of the nation and nationalism in Nepal, this paper seeks to situate recurrent nationalist cries of political parties in Nepal from across the ideological spectrum to the threat of “Sikkimization” in the larger historical nationalist project.  By focusing on Nepali media coverage and other analyses of the 1975 annexation of Sikkim by India of that period, this paper will trace the gendered stakes and anxieties underlying Nepal’s quest for other government’s recognition of its claims to sovereignty as it operates in the international arena.

While nationalism in Nepal has long relied on anti-Indian posturing, the focus on “Sikkimization” is instructive in the light of Nepal claims to be exceptional in South Asia for being “never- colonized.” The claims of “exceptionalism” holds some empirical  grounds, but nationalist discourses of “independence” and “sovereignty” masks an actual subordination repressed in national narratives of a great “bir” (brave) history of warriors and war campaigns that enabled Nepal to remain independent even while the rest of South Asia suffered from colonialism. As historian Pratyoush Onta has noted, “Claiming this bir history allowed high-case state male elites to present Nepal  as an independent country, along with the other countries of the world, even as Nepal acknowledged that it was economically poor and in need of foreign aid.”

Certain ideas of masculinized dignity underwrite Nepal’s sense of autonomous nationhood, engendered in Panchayat nationalism.  Its impact on Nepali politics and culture is clear, reflected in the continued anxieties of the political elite on questions of Nepal’s sovereign status.  Understanding these gendered narratives, tensions and ambiguities enables a larger  understanding of how gendered representations, hierarchies and narratives are politically used in the service of a particular usage of national identity.

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On Three Basic ‘Ritual’ Gestures in Byans, Far Western Nepal
Katsuo Nawa, Professor, Cultural Anthropology, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo, Japan 

Abstract: In this paper I describe and analyze several basic elements of rituals among Rangs in Byans, Far Western Nepal and adjacent regions, focusing on three different named gestures or bodily movements carried out very frequently in their “rituals”. Rang traditionally lives in several Himalayan valleys in Darchula District in Nepal and Uttarakhand in India, and is officially recognized as an adivasi janajati in Nepal. Though it has been considerable amount of discursive and practical transformation in various aspects of their rituals within last fifty years from the Panchayat era to the age of samabeshikaran, my focus here is on what Rangs have done in their “rituals” despite, and in relation to, these changes.

As far as I know there is no Byansi word for “ritual” in general. Rather, there are two words, thumo and changchimo, which can be rendered as “to worship” or “to celebrate” and “to exorcise” or “to throw away” respectively. Thumo is for benevolent deities (se), and should be, in principle, performed in the light half of the lunar calender to full moon. Changchimo on the other hand is for malevolent beings (sina) carried out in the dark half of the month after full moon. Unlike the word ritual, these two words are not abstract categories, because both terms also imply a particular gesture. Thus thumo also means to toss up offerings, while changchimo is to throw them away. To worship a deity is to toss up offerings to him or her, usually with the phraze “e parmeshre”, and to exorcize a malevolent spirit is to throw away some offerings to them, usually beside a junction of three trails outside their village. These gestures are performative acts. This dualistic, almost structuralist overview of their rituals does not cover the whole range of their basic ritual, however. There is another gesture, yimo, at least equally important but performed only in specific occasions by a strictly restricted range of people, often almost secretly. This gesture, I would argue, is nothing to do with non-human “supernatural” beings, benevolent or malevolent, but to do with communion of close kins, living and dead, including married-in and established females and excluding married-out females, invoking what Benedict Anderson called “a simultaneity of past and future in an instantaneous present” in their distinct way.

Analyzing the basic process of various rituals, offerings and paraphernalia used in them, and villagers’ own explanations of them, I will present an approximate view of how to do things through various “rituals” in Byans.

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Competing Nationhood and Constitutional Instability: Representation, Regime, and Resistance in Nepal
Mahendra Lawoti, Professor, Department of Political Science, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan 

Abstract: Despite being the oldest state in South Asia and having gone through eight constitutions (two proto-constitutions and six formal constitutions), Nepal is still grappling with constitutional instability as the first Constituent Assembly (2008-2012) could not craft a constitution and it is not certain whether the Second Constituent Assembly elected in November 2013 can craft a new Constitution that would stabilize constitutionalism in the country. This calls for understanding the reasons behind the constitutional instability, which could be useful both for practical and academic purposes.

The paper will examine why constitutional stability still eludes Nepal today by juxtaposing two sets of literature to analyze the contestations over the constitutions that have led to the instability in Nepal and elsewhere.  Democratization literature, especially those focusing on transition to democracy in the first phase and democratic deepening that could occur in the second stage, witness contestations and changes in the constitutions (new or major amendments).  Nation-building literature, on the other hand, have either argued that assimilation policies combined with coercion over a long period can establish a nation-state or that culturally diverse countries can become stable only when multiple nations are recognized within a state.

Constitutions and its institutions affect governed people in different ways, including by advantaging or disadvantaging certain identity groups and their culture and issues, and creating varied incentives, opportunities, hindrances and/or restrictions. The constitutions once promulgated, however, are also affected by agents (rulers and ruled) through their decisions and actions to support, reinforce, follow, accept, ignore, undermine or resist and rebel against them. While the earlier constitutional instabilities arose largely due to the several contestations between democratic and non-democratic actors, the recent constitution crafting process was bogged down over identity issues, which were in effect contestations over attempts to deepen democracy by extending more rights to more people through crafting a constitution that would recognize a multination-state.

First, I will describe the constitutional epochs of nation-state and emerging multination-state by examining constitutional provisions and public policies’ treatment of cultural elements in different constitutions (two proto constitutions, six formal constitutions and the failed drafting process for a new constitution). Second, I will examine the cultural identity characteristics of people involved in writing the constitutions and see whether it affected the nature of the constitutions.  Third, the paper will look at protests, resistance, and culture-preserving activities of non-ruling identity groups during the various constitutional epochs to examine acceptance or opposition of the constitutions by the people. The regime type (authoritarian and democratic) variable will be controlled for this examination. Fourth, I will see if the emergence of constitutional transformation that began to recognize the diversity of the country has come about by protests and resistances and/or make-up of the state and constitution-framing bodies. This study of Nepal demonstrates that nation-state building through constitutions and state policies fail in diverse societies despite long and multiple attempts once democracy is introduced and democratization gains momentum.

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Beyond “Psychosocial”: The Social Ecology of Care in Two Bhutanese Refugee Communities
Liana Chase, MSc Candidate, Division of Social and Cultural Psychiatry, McGill University, Canada; and Madhu Neupane, BSc., Vermont Bhutanese Association, Burlington, USA     

Abstract: The Bhutanese refugees represent an ethnically and linguistically Nepali minority group that was forced to flee Bhutan in the early 1990s (Evans, 2010; Hutt, 2003). Throughout their protracted displacement, the Bhutanese refugee camp population has been subject to considerable psychiatric study and intervention. Moreover, in the five years since the onset of resettlement, Bhutanese refugee mental health has become a public health concern among governments and communities welcoming refugees as well as multilateral organizations facilitating the resettlement process.

The bulk of previous scholarship on Bhutanese refugee mental health has focused on issues of vulnerability, morbidity, and manifestations of distress, including suicide. To date, exploration of family- and community-level processes that aim to promote healing in Bhutanese refugee communities, hereafter encompassed under the heading of “care,” has been limited. This paper works at the margins of existing literature to recount findings of a systematic exploration of society as healing context and the broad spectrum of “non-formal” practices of care operating in Bhutanese refugee communities. It contests the claim that Nepal is a country with “extremely few mental health resources” (Tol et al., 2005, p. 319), arguing instead that many of the most important culturally proscribed responses to suffering fall between the cracks of dominant conceptual frameworks in psychology and applied medical anthropology and are easily overlooked by investigations structured around the “psychosocial.”

Drawing on ethnographic case studies from field sites in the refugee camps of eastern Nepal and a resettled community in Burlington, VT, the paper explores Bhutanese refugee community groups as primary sites of care, attending to the ways in which the healing of “psychosocial” suffering is embedded within more holistic, ecologically oriented agendas. The cases are also used to consider the role of family and community in identifying and responding to distress. Idioms of vulnerability and help-providing behaviors are introduced as important complementary theoretical concepts to account for collective approaches to the management of suffering among Bhutanese refugees. The relevance of the social ecological model of community psychology is also discussed.

At the pragmatic/therapeutic level, this paper outlines the important role community-based organizations may play in Bhutanese refugee society as well as public health interventions targeting Bhutanese refugees. At a more theoretical level, it disrupts the widespread conflation of the absence of a discrete mental health care sector in indigenous societies with the absence of a sophisticated body of knowledge and resources related to the pursuit of mental health and wellbeing. Finally, at the level of methodology, this paper points to potential risks associated with the application of theory in the absence of deep ethnography. It suggests that as medical anthropological concepts such as “idioms of distress” once used to uncover complexity and cross-cultural variation gain currency in clinical circles, they also undergo processes of ossification and instrumentalization, becoming ostensible “short-cuts” to cultural competency.

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Aid, Aid-for-Trade, and Nepal
Shankar Ghimire, Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics, Division of Social Sciences, Maryville College, Tennessee 

Abstract: This research examines whether aid that is specifically targeted for trade (referred to in the  literature  as  “Aid‐for‐Trade”  or  AfT)  has  helped  Nepal  in  its  trade  performance. Effectiveness  of  AfT  is  examined  by  analyzing  the  relationship  between  infrastructure development and exports. There are two main approaches used in the paper to analyze the effectiveness of AfT: first, whether AfT helps export levels across different sectors and, second, if it favors certain sectors over others. One potential channel explaining uneven gains in exports possibly involves the development of more favorable infrastructure system, enabled by aid, in the relatively more successful sectors.  The analysis of export performance from developing countries has drawn an increased attention in the recent years as the aid donating countries have increased the aid amount targeted to improve the trade sector. Donor countries provide foreign aid for many reasons: to directly improve the social, political, and economic situation of the recipient country, and to indirectly improve one or more of these areas in the donor country (Alesina and Dollar, 2000).

Both the donor and recipient countries expect that general foreign aid will have significant impact on the overall economy of the recipient nation. However, scholars have not found significant impact of foreign aid on growth regressions, except under the presence of special conditions like better institutional and policy variables (Burnside and Dollar, 2000). At the same time, the international organizations like WTO and OECD have teamed up to evaluate the effectiveness  of  AfT  by  establishing  a  special  task  force  to  monitor  the  allocation and implementation of projects that qualify as recipient of AfT. The increase in interest from these organizations is due to the realization that trade is a major determinant of economic growth and development of a country.  So,  it  is  natural  to  question  if  the  support  lent  by  richer countries is in fact helping the trade sectors of least developed countries like Nepal. Existing research such as Ghimire, Mukherjee, and Alvi (2013) and Pettersson and Johansson (2011) suggest that AfT may contribute to export promotion across developing countries, though case studies of such research are very limited. So, this study analyzes export performance for the case  of  Nepal  by  using  the  AfT  data  constructed  from  Creditor  Reporting  System  and infrastructure development indicators obtained from World Development Indicators, and study their impact on Nepal’s exports based on the data obtained from Trade Analysis Information System.

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Money Speaks: The Effects of Remittances on Caste-Based Discrimination
Prakriti Thami, Sanjay Sharma and Neha Choudhary, Research Associate, Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility (CESLAM), Social Science Baha, Kathmandu 

Abstract: Nepal, traditionally an agrarian society, used to offer limited employment opportunities. However, since this last decade it has witnessed drastic changes in its labour market. With an approximate 1600 youths leaving for foreign employment every day and remittances accounting for a large 25 percent of its GDP, Nepal is slowly and duly coming to be regarded as a remittance-based economy. The significance of these large scale remittances on the concurrent poverty reduction seen in Nepal is indisputable and there have been many studies that explore the economic implications of this new trend. However, the role of remittances in bringing about social changes, for the most parts, remains unexplored. This study aims to foray into addressing the issue above by examining the effect of remittances on caste-based discrimination.

In Nepal, due to the prevalence of the caste system there is a long history of the Dalits, as a social group, being marginalized. Although the practice of untouchability was officially abolished in 1965, the Dalits continue to be not only economically marginalized but they remain socially marginalized as well. The development and persistence of this unjust social hierarchy has been attributed primarily to the needs of an agricultural society, wherein, there were those with land (‘upper caste’) and those who provided the labour (dalits). The persistence of the lower social status of Dalits has been linked by many to their economic dependence on the ‘upper castes’ resulting from their landlessness. However, the emergence of foreign employment as a viable livelihood alternative has given the Dalits a new pathway to economic independence.

This research explores the implications of this economic independence on societal perception of this age old social hierarchy. This study used both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection. A total of 200 individuals, 100 from the Dalit community and 100 non-Dalits, were surveyed. All respondents were then asked an additional number of open ended follow-up questions based on the information they shared during the survey. In addition, 10 local organisations working in the sector of Dalit rights and migrant rights were also consulted. The research, among other things, reveals that while economic standing is a key factor in determining social attitude and social norms have been changing, in that discriminatory practices have been eradicated from the public sphere; a more subtle nuance of it continues to persist in the private sphere.

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Muted and Fragmented: Dalit Social Movement in Nepal
Sanjay Sharma, Research Associate, Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility (CESLAM); Manoj Paudel and Shreemanjari Tamrakar, Research Associate, Social Science Baha 

Abstract: As a revolt against the exclusionary practices of the society, Dalits have been raising their voices and demanding equality from long ago. Despite the history of the movement, it is believed that the Dalit movement in Nepal has been unable to make substantial changes at the political arena and in the lives of common Dalit citizens. While some hopes were there in the first Constituent Assembly because of the ‘considerable’ presence of the Dalit lawmakers, the movement has faced a further setback with the decrease in their number in the second version of the lawmaking body. There are arguments being made that there is a danger of the achievements of the first Constituent Assembly, which included the drafting of eight main Dalit issues, being watered down. Not just has this become a number’s game, this is also questioning the interest of the mainstream political parties. Furthermore, although preached a lot against, caste based discrimination still largely exists at the public level, let alone at the private sphere. Taking these issues into consideration, this paper, based on 20 in-depth individual interviews with Dalit leaders, lawmakers, Dalit rights activists, scholars, and NGO representatives, delves basically in one particular question: ‘What actually entails Nepali Dalit movement and what aspects of it are hindering its success?’ While this research also looks at the existing literature on Dalits and Nepali Dalit movement, it continually refers back to one of the prominent social movement theorists Sidney Tarrow for his understandings of social movements. Building on Tarrow’s arguments, the paper constantly questions the strength of the Dalit movement as a collective action against the state, the authorities, and the general citizenry.

The paper argues that due to their scattered and relatively lesser population, lack of vision in the leaders, weak sense of collective identity and solidarity, and immense intra-Dalit heterogeneity, the Dalits are not able to assemble enough attention about their concerns. Moreover, in Nepal, on one hand the Dalit issues have been highly politicised and used by political parties as a mere tool to get into power. After getting power, as done time and again, most of the parties turn their focuses off from the questions raised by the Dalit movement. On the other hand, more than just political marginalisation, the exclusion of Dalits is based on traditional discrimination of treating people as ‘impure’ based on the work they perform. When people at the micro level are not able to respect each other’s profession, this paper examines how mere bargaining at the state level will ensure that people to people relationships are governed on egalitarian grounds?

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Staging Memories at the Narayanhiti Palace Museum
Bryony Whitmarsh, Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of Portsmouth, UK 

Abstract: This paper focuses on a particular time (the post-monarchy Nepali present) and site (the Narayanhiti Palace Museum) that I believe offers a compelling space for understanding the negotiation of Nepal’s recent past, thereby revealing as much about the Nepal of which it forms a part as the Nepal it institutionalizes – the on-going transition from royal to republican Nepal.

The Palace Museum means different things to different groups of people and key objectives of my research are to identify these claims, how they are formed and the reasons for their existence. I propose to use the following definitions from Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (1998, 48) to discuss three different registers of meaning of the Narayanhiti Palace Museum. The first, the museum as “a vault, in the tradition of the royal treasure room” will analyse the state narrative as told in official speeches and the press (May 2008 – Feb 2009). The second, the museum as “a laboratory for creating knowledge” will examine the processes of constructing collective memories in the space of the Palace Museum displays, and the third register of meaning: the museum as “a cultural centre for the keeping and transmission of patrimony” will draw upon an ethnographic study ‘behind the scenes’ at the Museum.

The palace itself was transformed into a museum as a symbol of national unity (in the face of ethnic diversity) and as such is a particular instance of the reconstruction of a Nepali national identity, no longer dependent upon a Hindu monarch. I argue that the national identity under construction at the Museum is based on openness and transparency – creating an imagined community by emphasising the opening up of this space that was previously closed. The promised ‘openness’ associates the royal family with the ‘old’ Nepal, a deliberate strategy to render the monarchy as ‘harmless’. What the state is preserving is not the palace and its contents themselves, but their symbolic significance as a sign of political authority and legitimacy.

The processes of constructing collective memories at the Palace Museum reflects power structures within society. I will identify the way that the Palace Museum cultivates a memory of King Birendra, with little reference to King Gyanendra. Writing about the aftermath of the murders at Narayanhiti, Genevieve Lakier identifies the importance to the state of the construction of a collective memory that simultaneously remembers and forgets the king (2009).

I will then take us ‘behind the scenes’ at the museum to examine the politics of display; the processes, actions, attitudes and negotiations of those involved in constructing and visiting the museum.  Highlighting, for example, tensions between the ‘official narrative” and the agency of ex-Palace staff who now run the Museum.

Acknowledging that the social and historical location of the museum means that it will bear the imprint of social relations beyond its walls I propose to address the broader questions of how Nepal’s royal past is now understood and who authorizes the understanding?

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Understanding the Success of the Gorkha Expansion in the 18th Century: Going Beyond Prithvi Narayan Shah
Binayak Sundas, PhD Candidate, Centre for Historical Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India 

Abstract: The political history of the Himalayan region has demonstrated that states in the region were more prone to political fragmentation rather than consolidation and expansion. The various historians of the region have cited several reasons for this, the terrain, lack of resources, succession disputes which when combined with the terrain complicated the matter etc. Thus in the early 18th century the entire Himalayan region was littered with several small states. The state of Gorkha was one of these several small states, struggling against one another. In the latter half of the 18th century it began a process of expansion which culminated in the creation of an empire which was in size and in the multitude of people that it ruled over, unprecedented in the region.

The traditional historiography of the region has primarily focused on the narrative of the expansion and has attributed the success of the expansion to Prithvinarayan Shah (r.1743-1775) the ruler of Gorkha in the 18th century, and the martial qualities of the Gorkhas. Yet what stands out as glaring lacunae in the study of the expansion is an analysis of the structures of administration, innovation in the military strategies, changes in weapons, reorganization of the army etc. that may have facilitated the state of Gorkha to overcome various obstacles, that was mentioned above, and create an empire. Further 18th century in the sub-continent was characterized by the rise of several regional states such as Mysore under Haider Ali (r.1761-1782) and Tipu Sultan (r.1782-1799), the Sikh state of Punjab under Ranjit Singh (r.1801-1839), Marathas under the various Peshwas etc. The rise of these regional states was characterized by the downfall of the Mughal empire, use of military fiscalism, adoption of European weapons and military formations and employment of Europeans to train their armies. The historians of Nepal have generally treated the rise of the Gorkha empire as an independent phenomenon without attempting to view it from the perspective of the wider developments taking place in the region during the same period.

This paper, in an attempt to fill the lacunae, will look into the various changes that the state of Gorkha adopted in the fields of administration, organization of the army, weapons, strategies etc. to explain the cause for the success their expansion. Further the paper will look at, whether or not, the rise of the Gorkha empire can be explained as a part of the wider process taking place in the 18th century India which saw the saw the rise of several regional states. The larger question that the paper seeks to answer is whether an individual such as Prithvinarayan Shah is a result of the socio political process taking place around him or is he independent of it.

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The Nepalese Indra Festival as Index of Contemporary Political Life
Michael Baltutis,
Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies & Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, USA

Abstract: The Nepalese Indrajatra, the autumnal festival of the Hindu god Indra, is the mul Jatra (root festival) of the city of Kathmandu. The origins of this festival lie in the Sanskrit texts of classical India: the epic Mahabharata (most likely its first appearance), the dramaturgical Natyashastra, the architectural Samarangana Sutradhara, and the royal-astrological Brihat Samhita. Rather than simply describing the festival, and certainly more than interpreting the festival as an occasion that peacefully brings together all of its participants, these texts use the Indra festival as a literary trope that indicates socio-political change and innovation.

The contemporary Nepalese iteration of the festival is no different. The 1768 performance of the festival serves as the performative backdrop for the successful incursion of Prithivi Narayan Shah into the Kathmandu Valley, his overthrow of the Newar Malla dynasty, and his reception of the blessing of the tika from the royal Kumari (an event that, outside of Kathmandu, occurs more logically during the goddess-oriented Dasain festival and indicates performative change). On the level of narrative, officials at the Akash Bhairav temple in the central neighborhood of Indra Chowk – a temple that plays a central role during Indra’s festival – have reiterated their preference, popular among many Newars, that it is Bhairav who is “our king” (Nep. hamro raja; New. jigu juju) and neither the Vedic Indra who is celebrated during the festival nor the Hindu Vishnu who, until recently, incarnated as the Shah king.

More recently, the Indrajatra has been the setting for the public airing of grievances between multiple parties in Nepalese society and, more generally, a reflection of political tension in Nepal. During the 2005 festival, and amidst the second jan andolan, the noisy conveyance through the city streets of the massive Indra pole, the festival’s central object, immediately brought to mind for many people the physical violence that was part of the equally noisy julus (political protest) that resulted in damage to people and goods. In 2008, the festival reignited long-simmering tensions with the officials of Guthi Samsthan over the state’s funding of Newar festivals. And, in an event that reflects the festival’s occasional appellation of “Fight Jatra,” the annual pulling of Indra’s pole on the Arniko Highway creates regular chakka jams that place into sometimes violent opposition local Newars, walking the highway as they manually pull the pole over three days to Kathmandu, and Nepalese citizens returning home by vehicle from their jobs outside of the city.

Rather than a offering functionalist interpretation of festivals as occasions to bring people peacefully together, I will use Peirce and Jennings’s use of ritual as a performative index to show how the Indrajatra festival places into trans-historical rhetoric the social, political, and economic issues of the day, as well as Rene Girard’s focus on performative violence as a means for realizing and potentially rectifying these pressing issues.

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‘If I Say Left, the Government will Go Right’: Dalit Perceptions and Experiences of Governance and Social Protection in Three Villages in Sarlahi, Nepal
Kristie Drucza, PhD Candidate (Social Protection), Deakin University, Australia

My PhD research used a qualitative methodology known as grounded theory while applying a political economy lens to the situation of social assistance provision in Nepal. 70 interviews were completed with a diverse range of key informants predominantly residing in Kathmandu. These included development partners, NGOs, GoN, unions, private sector, academics, journalists and political parties. The district of Sarlahi was chosen for beneficiary interviews because it has low human development indicators and because it covers the Madhesh region and as such the people residing there have a high degree of exclusion. 21 beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries in 3 different villages were interviewed, including the Village Development Committee (VDC) secretaries. Additional interviews were completed with district-residing GoN officials and local political parties.

The research found that in all villages, but particularly the one closest to the border, Dalits faced more challenges registering and accessing their benefits than others. They also had more payment discrepancies. This paper will document 4 specific cases that highlight the challenges facing Dalits. These case studies will cover a widow, old aged, disabled, and child grant recipient.  It will cover their lifestyle challenges/household dynamics, perceptions of government and discrimination, their risk profile, grievances and access and use of the transfers.

The paper makes the point that if these cash transfers are meant to help Dalits feel more included by the state then public financial management, adherence to government guidelines and monitoring need to improve. Otherwise Dalits are being reached by a system that leaves them feeling more excluded rather than protected.

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Geographies of Adolescent Distress in Nepal
Nawaraj Upadhaya, PhD Candidate, Utretch University, the Netherlands; and Ria Reis, Technical Advisor for Health, HealthNetTPO, the Netherlands and Ministry of Public Health, Afghanistan 

Abstract: The experience and impact of distress (notion of suffering) depends on the geography(ies) where the distress occurs. For adolescents attending school in Nepal, their home, community and school are the three major locations (physical geographies) where distress is experienced due to situations that oppose their expectations in three emotional geographies (individual body geography, inter-personal geography and broader group geography).

This paper presents the findings of an ethnographic study conducted among high school students in a rural part of Lalitpur district, Nepal. Out of a total population of 111 adolescents, 35 directly participated in the study by agreeing to be individually interviewed, taking part in focus group discussions or being observed by the researcher in school, home and community.

Considering adolescents to be social actors, having agency to resist and navigate the problems they encounter, we examined their emic perspectives on how and where distress is experienced and how it affects their emotional geographies. Referencing an ecological framework, we assessed how the adolescents’ distress arose and traveled from one geography to another and how it was associated with the emotional geographies of the affected adolescent.

We found that the adolescents’ emic problem analysis model clearly suggested three physical geographies and their emotional geographies of distress. The personal body structure and mental state of the adolescent was related to individual body geography whereas the distance between two people (the adolescent and their peer) was responsible for inter-personal geographies of distress. The distance between the adolescents and several family and community members was responsible for group geographies of emotional distress. Imbalance between the expectation and the reality (alternation or changes in what the adolescent expected) in both geographies cause distress. Distress in one geographic setting triggered distress either in the same setting or in another setting, thereby making it mobile, affecting/or being affected by several geographies simultaneously. This suggests that distress is not static and nor attached to a particular geography; rather it is mobile and travels back and forth among several geographies (both physical and emotional geographies).

Distress experiences at home and in the community were related to domestic violence, heavy workload in the family, lack of materials for the fulfillment of basic needs and disputes in the family or with neighbors because of property issues. Discrimination, bullying and physical punishment and lack of infrastructure were common experiences of distress for adolescents both at home, in the community and at school. The behavior and the teaching styles of teachers and the confusing rules and regulations at the schools were typical school-related experiences of distress.

Keywords:  Geographies of Distress, Adolescents, Nepal, High School

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Cyber-Urban Environmental and Heritage Revitalization Communities and Movements in the Kathmandu Valley
Rachel Amtzis, FASS Research Clusters Research Coordinator, National University of Singapore 

Abstract: Nepal, one of poorest nations in Asia, a hub of development institutions and activities, and a testing ground of development-branded projects and lifestyles since the last third of the 20th Century, has also become one of its most socially progressive and least restrictive in online communication, and, arguably, on the ground activism. However, its rapid urbanization , brought about by lack of economic opportunities, land capture, warfare, and destruction in rural areas, has caused a strain on the limited resources of its capital, Kathmandu, population 1,740,977 (National Population Census, 2011), resulting in its listing as one of the planet’s least livable cities (127th out of 140, Businessweek, 2012).

Responses to the negative environmental effects of urbanization in Kathmandu engage social media platforms using a combination of textual, photographic, and video appeals to mobilize members of online communities to act, both within cyberspace and in physical Kathmandu, to protect and revitalize the Kathmandu Valley’s natural, cultural, and built heritage and environment. This research will analyze the conservation strategies employed by individuals and organizations concerned with heritage preservation and environmentalism. It will investigate how their narratives of community, nature, nostalgia, and urban decay and renewal are expressed on social media platforms. This study particularly seeks to examine how these textual and visual cyber communications translate into community mobilization in the physical environment, as well as how community involvement in heritage preservation and environmentalism is portrayed in online communities and the resultant implications for understanding and strengthening community engagement in future heritage conservation and environmentalist efforts.

The research will explore how and to what extent these initiatives’ narratives place themselves as part of global, environmentalist urban revitalization and heritage preservation efforts and analyze the mutually influential quality of their discourses in cyberspace and street space. It will reveal how activists’ social media use impacts their in-country and diasporic online audiences as well as their own conceptions of their demi-urban spaces, semi-cyber places, and virtually global, practically local scopes of activism. In addition, the study considers the influence of the online practices of crowd-funding and crowd-voting in shaping offline behaviors.

Theories of narrative and dramaturgical communication and development approaches that are DIY and/or “hacked”, and their connection to the participatory approach, are used to examine the increasing prevalence of cyber-urban heritage preservation and environmentalism among young, middle-class, “new” Nepalis. In-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews of individual activists and case studies of grassroots organizations and their initiatives are the method of inquiry. Collaborations between artists, environmentalists, and social workers, and partnerships involving non-profit organizations and social entrepreneurs are of particular interest. Additionally, the notions of sustainability and livability and their links to activists’ self-professed identities and activist groups’ explicit visions are interrogated.

Findings reveal a reconceptualization of communication for development and re-imagined practices of participation among individual Nepali heritage and environmental conservation activists, their global and local supporters, and in-country and diasporic groups advocating for social change in contemporary, republican Nepal.

1The World Bank report Nepal’s Urban Growth and Spatial Transition: An Initial Assessment (2012) summarizes Nepal as continuing to be the fastest urbanizing (yet least urbanized) nation in South Asia. Nepal’s urbanization rate is 4.7 per cent (Index Mundi, 2012).

Keywords: heritage, environmentalism, cyber-urbanism, urban renewal, social media, Kathmandu, Nepal

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