Day 1 – 2017

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Day 1: 26 July (Wednesday) 
SESSION 1: 9 – 11 am
Panel A1
Panel B1
Heather Hindman
Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies 
David Gellner
Britain-Nepal Academic Council 
Chair and Discussant: Thomas B. Robertson, Director, Fulbright Commission, Nepal
Chair: Sudhindra Sharma, Executive Director, Interdisciplinary Analysts, Kathmandu
Discussant: Seira Tamang, Independent researcher
Janak Rai
Associate Professor, Anthropology, Central Department of Anthropology, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Ivan Deschenaux 
PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics, UK
Amy Leigh Johnson
PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology and School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, USA
Bimla Kumari Gurung
PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, Gurunanak Dev University, India
Priyankar Bahadur Chand
Sickle Cell Nepal
Claire Martinus
Lecturer, Anthropology, University of Lille 3, France
BREAK: 11 – 11:30 am (refreshments will be served in the dining hall) 
   SESSION 2: 11:30 am – 1:30 pm                                                          
Panel A2
Panel B2
Conservation and Locals
Chair: Hari Sharma, Executive Director, Alliance for Social Dialogue (ASD)
Discussant: Lokranjan Parajuli, Senior Researcher, Martin Chautari, Kathmandu
Empowering Women 
Chair: Heather Hindman, President, Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies
Discussant: Arjun Kharel, Researcher, CESLAM, Social Science Baha 
Pooja Thapa
PhD Candidate, Sociology, Institute for Social and Economic Change, India
Bal Krishna Khadka
Assistant Professor, School of Management, Kathmandu University, Nepal
Pranaya Sthapit
Researcher, Interdisciplinary Analysts, Kathmandu
Sudhindra Sharma
Executive Director, Interdisciplinary Analysts, Kathmandu
Nayna Jhaveri
Independent researcher
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
Thomas B. Robertson
Associate Professor of History, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA
Sushila Chatterjee Nepali and Kanchan Lama
Women Leading for Change in Natural Resources, Nepal
LUNCH: 1:30 – 2:30 pm (served in the dining hall)
SESSION 3: 2:30 – 4:30 pm 
Panel A3
Panel B3
Chair: David Gellner, Chair, Britain-Nepal Academic Council
Discussant: Sangay Tamang, PhD Candidate, Indian Institute of Technology, India 
Traditional vs Modern Practices of Child-rearing
Chair: Katsuo Nawa, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo
Discussant: Gaurav Lamichhane, PhD Candidate, University of Heidelberg, Germany 
Krishna P. Adhikari
Research Fellow, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA), University of Oxford, UK
David Gellner
Professor, Social Anthropology and Fellow, All Souls College, University of Oxford, UK
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
Steve Folmar
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Wake Forest University, USA
Obindra B. Chand
Research Associate, Social Science Baha, Nepal
Radha Adhikari
Visiting Research Fellow, School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh, UK
Richard Bownas
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and International Affairs, University of Northern Colorado, USA
Ratna Bishokarma
MPhil in Sociology, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Susan Clarke
PhD Candidate, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Australia
BREAK: 4:30 – 5 pm (refreshments will be served in the dining hall)
Public Event: 5 pm
Keynote Lecture
Painting the Mythological History of Nepal: The Wall Paintings of the Tantric Shrine of Santipur
at Svayambhu, and their origins, history and fate

Alexander von Rospatt
Professor for Buddhist and South Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley


Panel A1: 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
Chair and Discussant: Thomas B. Robertson, Director, Fulbright Commission, Nepal

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 1: Adivasi Body, Malaria, and the State in Nepal: Perspectives from Indigenous Historical Analysis
Author: Janak Rai
Affiliation:  Associate Professor in Anthropology, Central Department of Anthropology, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Paper Abstract: 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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Paper 2: Settler Sensibilities and Environmental Change: The Unmaking of a Malarial Landscape in the Farwest Tarai
Author: Amy Johnson
Affiliation: PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology and School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, USA

Paper 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
Author: Priyankar Bahadur Chand
Affiliation: Possible Health Nepal

Paper 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 B1: Intermarriage in Nepal

Panel Convener: Claire Martinus, Lecturer, University of Lille 3, France
Chair: Sudhindra Sharma, Executive Director, Interdisciplinary Analysts, Kathmandu
Discussant: Seira Tamang, Independent researcher

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
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 focuse on matrimonial practices in an urban context of mixity.

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Paper 1: Does intercaste marriage change the way in which people think about caste?
Author: Ivan Deschenaux
Affiliation: PhD Candidate, London School of Economics, UK

Paper Abstract: Research question: 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.

Outline: 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.

Methodology: 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.

Please note: This abstract is similar (in some parts identical) to the one which was submitted and accepted for the 2016 conference, which I could not attend for personal reasons. I hope that the organisers will kindly reconsider my submission for 2017, in the context of this panel.

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Paper 2: Intermarriages and Generational Relations: A sociological study in Kathmandu city
Author: Bimla Kumari Gurung
Affiliation: 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. 

Research questions/ hypothesis: 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?
  2. How are the inter- and intra-generational relations of intermarried women best described? 

Methodology: 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
Author: Claire Martinus
Affiliation: Lecturer, University of Mons, 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 A2
Chair: Hari Sharma, Executive Director, Alliance for Social Dialogue (ASD)
Discussant: Seira Tamang, Independent researcher 

Paper 1: Religion and Development in Sikkim
Author: Pooja Thapa
Affiliation: 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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Paper 2: Forest Futures: Tenure Mosaics of Nepal’s Terai Arc Landscape
Author: Nayna Jhaveri
Affiliation: 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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Paper 3: “Guns and Fences” Conservation in Asia?: The Origins and Evolution of Nepal’s Chitwan National Park
Author: Thomas Robertson
Affiliation: Associate Professor of History, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts

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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Panel B2
Chair: Heather Hindman, President, Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies
Discussant: Arjun Kharel, Researcher, CESLAM, Social Science Baha 

Paper 1: Self Help Group’s Effects on Women’s Empowerment
Author: Bal Krishna Khadka1, Pranaya Sthapit2, Chandra K.C3 and Sudhindra Sharma4
Affiliation: 1Assistant Professor, School of Management Kathmandu University, Nepal; 2Researcher, Interdisciplinary Analyst, Nepal; 3Assistant Lecture, Tri-Chandra College, Nepal; 4Executive 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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Paper 2: Property Rights, Intersectionality, and Women’s Empowerment: Examining the meanings of property for women with different social locations in Nepal
Author: Rajendra Pradhan1, Ruth Meinzen-Dick2 and Sophie Theis2
Affiliation: 1Nepā School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Nepal; 2International Food Policy Research Institute, 2International Food Policy Research Institute, USA

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 approachThe 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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Paper 3: Transformation in Gender Norms for Innovation and Development in Agriculture and NRM sector: A case study of Jajarkot, Myagdi and Devdaha, Nepal
Sushila Chatterjee Nepali1, and Kanchan Lama1
Affiliation: 1Women 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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Panel A3: 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
Chair: David Gellner, Professor of Social Anthropology and Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford, UK
Discussant: Sangay Tamang, PhD Candidate, Indian Institute of Technology, India

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?

The proposed panel will consist, in the first place, of the first three papers listed here.

We include also two further papers, which, if accepted, could form the basis for a second, linked panel, along with another paper from the general submissions to the conference (we expect that there will be several proposals of individual papers on Dalit issues, some of which are likely to be on the theme proposed here).

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Paper 1: International Labour Migration from Nepal and Changing Caste-based Institutions and Inter-caste Relations
Author: Krishna P. Adhikari1, David N. Gellner2 and Arjun Bahadur B.K.3
Affiliation: 1Research Fellow and Co. Investigator, ESRC funded research project Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford; 2Professor of Social Anthropology and Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford; 3Independent Researcher

Paper 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
Author: Steve Folmar
Affiliation: Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology Wake Forest University. Winston Salem, North Carolina, USA

Paper 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
Author: Richard Bownas1 and Ratna Bishokarma2
Affiliation: 1Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and International Affairs, University of Northern Colorado, USA; 2MPhil, Sociology, Tribhuvan University, Nepal

Paper 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 B3
Chair: Katsuo Nawa, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo
Discussant: Gaurav Lamichhane, PhD Candidate, University of Heidelberg, Germany 

Paper 1: Accounting for Local Culture to Promote Safer Births in Rural and Remote Nepal
Author: Jill Allison1, Madhusudan Subedi2, Cathy Ellis3, Bhakta Dev Shrestha4, Nani Kaway5, Llamo Sherpa6
Affiliation: 1Global Health Co-ordinator,  Clinical Assistant Professor,  Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland; 2Professor, Central Department of Sociology Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, Nepal; 3Bachelor of Fine Arts, Registered Midwife, MSc., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; 4Medical officer, National Health Education Information and Communication Centre; 5Master in Nursing (Women Health and Development), Tribhuvan University, Institute of Medicine; 6PhD, Department of Community Medicine, Institute of Health and Society, Section for Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, 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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Paper 2: Ethnographic Exploration of Maternal and Child Health Projects in Nepal: A Critical Analysis of the Data Collection Processes
Author: Obindra B. Chand1 and Radha Adhikari2
Affiliation: 1Research Associate, Social Science Baha, Nepal; 2Visiting 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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Paper 3: Sit up to feed your baby and you will have no problem…an explanatory model of childhood ear disease and gender inequality in Jumla
Author: Susan Clarke
Affiliation: 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.

[1]The Principle Investigators (PIs) of this research have agreed to make available the raw data of this survey for this paper.

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