Day 2 – 2017

Home / Day 2 – 2017


Day 2: 27 July (Thursday)
SESSION 4: 9 – 11 am
Panel A4
Panel B4
Chair: Susan Clarke, PhD Candidate, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Australia 
Discussant: Laura Kunreuther, Director of Anthropology, Bard College, New York
Nepali Diaspora in India
Chair: Janak Rai,
Associate Professor, Anthropology, Central Department of Anthropology, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Discussant: Shak B. Budhathoki, Associate Researcher, Martin Chautari, Kathmandu
Kumud Rana
PhD Candidate, College of Social Sciences PhD Studentship, University of Glasgow, UK
Sangay Tamang
PhD candidate, Department of Humanities and Social Science, Indian Institute of Technology, India 
Sarah Rich-Zendel
PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, Ontario
Shubha Kayastha
MA Student, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Sumit Kumar Sarma
Research Scholar, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, India
SESSION 5: 11:30 am – 1:30 pm
Panel A5
Panel B5
Chair: Steve Folmar,
Associate Professor, Wake Forest University, USA
Discussant: Nishesh Chalise, Assistant Professor, Augsburg College, USA 
New and Old: Challenges in Education Sector in Nepal
Chair: Jeevan Baniya, Researcher, Social Science Baha 
Discussant: Pooja Thapa, PhD Candidate, Institute for Social and Economic Change, India 
Pramod Bhatta
Senior Researcher, Martin Chautari, Kathmandu
Lokranjan Parajuli
Senior Researcher, Martin Chautari, Kathmandu
Uma Pradhan
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Education Anthropology, Aarhus University, Denmark
Rajendra Raj Timilsina
PhD Candidate, School of  Education, Kathmandu University, Nepal
Shak B. Budhathoki
Associate Researcher, Martin Chautari, Kathmandu
Shristi Sijapati
MSc. International Development, University of Manchester, UK
Damodar Khanal
Campaigner for Save the Children UK
LUNCH BREAK: 1:30 – 2:30 pm (served in the dining hall)
 SESSION 6: 2:30 – 4:30 pm                                                          
Panel A6 
Panel B6
Post-Disaster Relief and Roles: Local Initiatives and Global Norms
Chair:  Seira Tamang, Independent researcher
Discussant: Jeevan Baniya, Researcher, Social Science Baha
Practice and Performance of Customs
Chair: Nirmal Man Tuladhar, Chair, Social Science Baha
Discussant: N/A 
Andrew Haxby
MI. PhD Candidate, Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
Asaf Sharabi
Peres Academic Center
Hagar Shalev
PhD candidate, Asian Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Briana Mawby and Anna Applebaum
Hillary Rodham Clinton Research Fellows, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, USA
Nivedita Nath
PhD Candidate, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
Michael C. Baltutis
Associate Professor, South Asian Religions, Department of Religious Studies & Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, USA
BREAK: 4:30 – 5 pm (refreshments will be served in the dining hall)



Panel A4: Sexing the State: Negotiating Sexual Politics in Naya Nepal
Panel Convener: Kumud Rana, PhD Candidate, University of Glasgow, UK
Chair: Susan Clarke, PhD Candidate, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Australia
Discussant: Laura Kunreuther, Director of Anthropology, Bard College, New York

Panel Abstract: The three papers in this panel discuss sexual politics in Nepal at three levels of analysis; the state, the social and the individual. The first paper by Kumud Rana, interrogates state-centered activism through a case-study of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) movement in Nepal. The paper shows how this movement is shaped not only by national processes but also through opportunities and constraints in relation to Nepal’s geopolitical position, and its embeddedness in transnational solidarity networks. The second paper by Sarah Rich-Zendel looks at sexual politics through the lens of social institutions: media, health and education. By decentering the state, her paper shows how these institutions play a critical role in supporting, contesting, and subverting sexual rights. The final paper by Shubha Kayastha looks at sexual politics through the individual experiences of women with physical disabilities in Nepal. This paper provides intimate insight into this often invisible and marginalized group of people within the sexual rights discourse through an analysis of their lived sexual experiences. Together, these three papers analyse the varied landscapes of sexual politics in Nepal and how sexual rights debates play out in this period of intense political transformation.

go back

Paper 1: Queer Dissidence in Times of Revolution
Author: Kumud Rana
Affiliation:  PhD Candidate, University of Glasgow, UK

Paper Abstract: This paper focuses on queer politics within South Asia with a case study of Nepal and its legal recognition of a ‘third gender’ category in 2007 and the constitutional protection of the rights of ‘gender and sexual minorities’ in 2015, both occurring within Nepal’s turbulent transition from a Hindu monarchy to a federal democratic republic. The understanding of a third gender complicates a largely Western understanding of the binary of gender by including a wider range of identifications and experiences of transgression that might go beyond the ambit of gender and/or sexuality. However, within the context of intensifying global interconnectedness as well as stratification, the category continues to resist as well as embrace what can be understood as global framings of alternative sexualities.

This paper will highlight these complexities by analysing movement framing and discourses around identities amongst activists within the broader LGBT movement in Nepal. The paper will add to literature on social movements and LGBTQI politics by taking a multi-level approach to understanding how seemingly indigenous queer identities are compounded of complex relationships between the local, the national and the international. Using in-depth interviews with activists working on LGBTI rights, the paper will further show how the movement has negotiated contestations around identities and with what consequences, and how it might continue to do so given the challenges and opportunities posed by regional and global queer politics.

go back

Paper 2: Beyond the State: Social Institutions and the Transformation of Sexual Norms in Nepal
Author: Sarah Rich-Zendel
Affiliation: PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, Ontario

Paper Abstract: In Nepal, a landmark Supreme Court case in 2007 ushered in a decade of sexual justice reform that culminated in the 2015 constitutional protection for the rights of gender and sexual minorities. However, in a demonstration of the Nepali state’s completely incoherent position on sexual justice, the same document denies women equal access to citizenship and lacks a provision that guarantees same-sex couples and third gender persons equal marriage rights; ultimately reinforcing a patriarchal and heteronormative definition of the family.

The failure to achieve substantive constitutional recognition marks a serious setback for predominantly state-targeted LGBTI activism. It is also an invitation to revisit the merits of state-centred activism and corresponding sexual identity-based rhetoric as a tool for sexual justice in the context of increasing geopolitical polarization over sexual rights (Weiss & Bosia, 2013; Symons & Altman, 2015).

This paper aims to decentre the state and state-targeted activism by looking at the role of social institutions (media, education, and health) in the transmission of sexual norms in Nepal. Based on qualitative interviews, this paper argues that representatives of these social institutions play a critical role in constituting, contesting and, subverting sexual justice in ways that are largely disconnected from current state-centred sexual justice activism. The paper identifies how social institutions transmit sexual norms and the areas where this transmission may correspond or compete with the advancement of sexual justice. The aim of this paper is to provide a basis upon which “alternatives to state-centred configurations of [sexual] justice” can be developed in the context of a deeply ambivalent state (Lind & Keating, 2013).

go back

Paper 3: Sexuality of Women with Physical Disabilities: Experience and Realities
Author: Shubha Kayastha
Affiliation: MA Student, Tribhuvan University, Nepal

Paper Abstract: This study explores the realities of heterosexual women with physical disabilities (WWPD) related to their sexuality, and sexual and reproductive health (SRH). It aims to place the experiences of WWPD in the cultural context of Nepal where social norms and values around marriage, childbirth and fulfilling ‘duties of daughter-in-law’ remain powerful institutions when it comes to regulating a woman’s sexual life. The study also links the SRH experiences of WWPD to their own perceptions of body image and sexual self-esteem.

The study finds that WWPD are largely excluded from these social institutions and receive little or no information and education on sexual and reproductive health and on sexuality. Using a rights-based approach to sexual and reproductive health, the study corresponds to other research that finds Nepal’s public health discourse lacking when it comes to pregnancy, childbirth, STIs and/or family planning. As such, WWPD face a double burden because their disability erases them from an already limited approach to sexual and reproductive health. Given this double burden, the study aims to articulate the challenges WWPD face while accessing SRH services, dating and finding a partner, and their interpretations of sexual pleasure and suggests WWPD-friendly approaches to SRH based on addressing these challenges. 

go back


Panel B4
Chair: Janak Rai, Associate Professor, Anthropology, Central Department of Anthropology, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Discussant: Shak B. Budhathoki, Associate Researcher, Martin Chautari, Kathmandu

Paper 1: MULIKI AIN: An Invisible Burden for Nepalis in India
Author: Sangay Tamang
Affiliation: PhD candidate, Department of Humanities and Social Science, Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati

Abstract: Muliki Ain or Legal code of Nepal {1854} has politically transformed the ethnic and demographic configuration of Nepali society. Historically, this code has become a watershed moment in the formation of Nepali Hindu social hierarchy marked by the religious fundamentalism of Hinduism. It encompasses the entire population of (present day) Nepal into Hindu centric model of hierarchy irrespective of caste, ethnicity and geographical variation. To encapsulate this phenomenon, it can be said that the ‘forceful incorporation of hills tribes and many other non–Hindu groups under Hindu hierarchy  to make Nepal a Hindu nation was one of the silent features of Muliki Ain (1854)’. However, over the course of history, there emerges a contending force to discard the political hegemony of the Hindu kingdom. It impounded upon the religiosity of ethnic groups in Nepal society and created a new notion of religious practices which didn’t completely fit within the popular Hindu category. Though the contemporary dynamics shows different picture of federal and secular Nepal fracturing the Hindu politics through anti Brahmin agitation trolled by janjati politics; the psychological impact of Hinduism still haunts the everyday negotiation of people’s living. This psycho- legacy of Hinduism as created by Muliki Ain has a deep cutting impact even on the minds of Nepali diaspora. One such case is found in Darjeeling Hills of West Bengal India, where community even though have settled generation ago has to negotiate still with Hindu practices which they carried along with their migration history from Nepal. These communities in India are fighting for recognition as Indian subjects through various mechanisms ranging from statehood to affirmative action (Schedule Tribe) policy in India. Thus this article is an attempt to show how Hinduism became a way of obstacle for communities from becoming “tribe” in post colonial India. Drawing data mostly from literature on Nepal history and muliki Ain as well as some informal interview with ethnic members in Darjeeling Hills West Bengal, this article would try to show “what Nepal means for people in Darjeeling today”.

go back

Paper 2: Anxiety, Assertion and the Politics of Naming: The Making of ‘Assameli- Gorkha
Author: Sumit Kumar Sarma
Affiliation: Research Scholar, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, India

Abstract: Definition of the ‘self’ in the modern times is not just an individual’s quest for self-identification, but also a political statement of one’s status in the society. A sense of common origin, common beliefs and values, a common sense of survival; in other words a common cause has been a defining feature of mankind uniting themselves under various identities.  On the basis of groups definitions of belonging mankind can develop complex formal systems of individual and group stratification. Hence, a great deal of one’s ‘self-definition’ or ‘self-identification’ depends on the nature of the polity and society where one belongs to.

The present paper attempts to analyse the (re)construction of a hybrid identity and its underlying process-both pedagogical and performative. Set in the province of Assam in the Northeast India, a region which has been understood and seen as a troubled one due to ethnic and secessionist conflicts since independence, this study explores a lesser known but persistent movement for ethnic redefinition amongst the ‘Nepali speaking Gorkha’ population of Assam. After facing years of displacement and discrimination, the community to a great extent has been accepted as an indispensable part of the greater ‘Assamese Society’ resulting into the birth of ‘Assameli-Gorkha’.

The importance of the study lies in the fact that when it comes to Northeast India, an extension of the eastern Himalaya-both geographically and culturally, which has an overwhelming ethnic diversity, despite the idea of reified and bounded ethnic categories, things tend to be more fluid, overlapping and messy on the ground. The region has been a battleground for ‘homeland’ politics where ‘origin’ of a community decides its fate- as indigenous or immigrant. The focus here is not on the most expressive and overt forms of ethnicity, but rather on the more subtle aspects of collective attachments and how such attachments change and modify over time.

The paper is informed by two major research questions:

  1. What are the ways and means in which a hybrid identity is constructed spatially and symbolically and how is it disseminated to the people at large?
  2. What are the factors that influence, support and at times forces a community to forge new terms of self-description.
  3. How does a migrant- settler community (re)negotiate and (re)define its relationship with the land of its origin.

Methodology: The paper is based on ethnographic study of the community. A major part of the study will be based on in-depth elite interviews of leaders and ethnic activist of the ‘Axomiya- Nepali’ community. Primary sources of data include interviews with the members of political parties, ethnic organizations, youth bodies etc. Also, views of all those who are competent to throw light in this regard, such as intellectuals like academicians, artists, journalists and so on would be made use of in this study.

go back

Panel A5: Public Finance Dynamics in School Education in Nepal
Panel Convener: Pramod Bhatta, Martin Chautari
Chair: Steve Folmar, Associate Professor, Wake Forest University, USA
Discussant: Nisesh Chalise, Assistant Professor, Augsburg College, USA

Panel Abstract: The education sector in Nepal has gone through significant policy reforms in the recent years. School education also receives the largest government and donor budgetary allocations. The papers in this panel investigates the public finance dynamics in school education to enable better grounded understandings of public policy-making and implementation in countries undergoing transitions such as Nepal. The papers in this panel will locate public finance dynamics in school education within the larger socio-political context that is shaped by distinct ideologies, power relations and a series of interconnected networks of relationships. How do variously positioned social actors make meaning of public policy such as school education? What dynamics and strategies do they employ to manage the finances around school education? Are there any specific social relations in which they engage in order to facilitate these processes? This panel investigates the public finance dynamics in and around school education in order to understandideologies, social practices, power relations and networks within which public education governance are embedded.

go back

Paper 1: ‘Communityization’ of public schools and the realities of ‘free’ education in Nepal
Author: Pramod Bhatta
Affiliation: Senior Researcher, Martin Chautari, Nepal

Paper Abstract: This paper will explore the interrelationships between state financing of education, community schooling and the private costs of public education in order to understand the Nepali state’s commitment to a free and universal school education. In other words, it will focus on the dialectics of the community management of school education amidst the rhetoric of state financing of public education. Historically, the majority of public schools have been established and operated by communities, a trend that continues till date, albeit with some setbacks in the 1970s. At the same time, the state has increased its capability to support public education, through constitutional commitments to free basic (and secondary) education, and by implementing a number of large scale education reforms since the early 1990s. However, the state has been short of fully funding (and managing) public education, a phenomenon that is particular to the education sector. In such dualism, what does free education mean and how does this relate to the role of the state and the community in providing free education? The paper will derive from an ongoing research using a multi-method approach that includes a macro analysis of state financing of school education, coupled with case studies of various types of community schools (old vs new; successful vs not so successful in SLC; fully state subsidized vs partially subsidized, etc) to understand the dynamics of resource flows and usages associated with public education in Nepal.

go back

Paper 2: Becoming ‘eligible’: Documents, intermediary actors, and the state in education scholarship programmes
Author: Uma Pradhan
Affiliation: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Education Anthropology, Aarhus University, Denmark

Abstract: Persistent inequality in education has been one of the pressing political and moral challenges in Nepal. As a response to this, there have been several efforts to introduce social justice, affirmative action, and equity measures in the implementation of education policy. Education scholarship programmes for needy and deserving students is one of such programmes. Due to the ‘targeted’ nature of these programmes, scholarship recipients are identified based on their ‘need’, both socioeconomic inequality and cultural marginalization. Drawing on the ethnographic fieldwork of scholarship distribution process, this paper will highlight the characteristics of dynamics that is generated in this context. The focus of this paper is on the processes, strategies, and social relations through which people encounter the state and get access to education programmes that are meant to ensure social justice and equality. The paper argues that the rules, practices and effects of the state-sponsored education initiatives could form the basic tools for citizen engagement with the state. In the targeted policies, such as Scholarship Programmes, the procedures such as getting on the list, obtaining recommendation from the local authority etc. and interaction with various other intermediary actors during this process can impact the ways in which state is understood and interpreted in everyday lives.

go back

Paper 3: The use and misuse of state resources in Nepal’s public schools
Author: Shak B. Budhathoki
Affiliation: Associate Researcher, Martin Chautari, Nepal

Abstract: The Government of Nepal continues to allocate the largest share of the national annual budget for the education sector. At the same time, the Commission for the Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) work as watchdogs for the public sector governance to contribute for transparency and accountability by closely monitoring how and whether the public funds have been used as envisaged at the time of allocation. Against this backdrop, this paper asks: how do the annual reports of the CIAA and OAG report about the flow and use of public finances in the education sector, especially in school education? How do they indicate about the extent and possibility of leakage of the public finance and what is their pattern? What does it tell about the flow and usage of public funds in public sector governance in Nepal? The paper will draw on a content analysis of the annual reports of the OAG and the CIAA. The paper is expected to shed further light on the inherent contradictions between the intended and actual usages of public finance in Nepal’s education sector, including a critique of the decentralization of education financing in Nepal.

go back

Panel B5
Chair: Jeevan Baniya, Researcher, Social Science Baha
Discussant: Pooja Thapa, PhD Candidate, Institute for Social and Economic Change, India

Paper 1: Schools as an Arena of Struggle: Reexamining the Panchayat Era Politics of Education 
Author: Lokranjan Parajuli
Affiliation: Senior Researcher, Martin Chautari

Abstract: Nepal does not have a very long history of “modern” formal education; the Ranas who ruled the country for over a century (1846­-1951) were, barring a few exceptions, against public having access to education. When the Rana rule ended, the literacy rate of the country was less than two percent. In the democratic decade (1951-1960) after the downfall of the regime, the number of educational institutions (and concomitantly the number of students/teachers) grew enormously in many parts of the country even though the political situation during that decade remained chaotic.

In 1960 the then “constitutional” monarch staged a coup and disbanded the first ever people elected parliament, outlawed political parties and severely curtailed civil liberties. Development of education had been one of the mantras that the post 1960 royal government chanted; however, this paper argues that education was not the priority of the post 1960 government. After the royal takeover, school managing committees became an arena where the state and the “activists” contested. The state tried and to a large extent became successful in taking control of the school managing committees—an analysis of the educational policies of the first decade of Panchayat shows the gradual concentration of powers in the hands of the State agents.

The royal government of Nepal introduced the NESP (often called New Education Plan or naya shiksha), after years of secret planning, aimed at complete overhauling of the entire education system of the country. The NESP was prepared under the command of King Mahendra, whereas the then Crown Prince Birendra took active part in designing, finalizing, and also in implementing it, when he became the king after his father’s death in 1972 (Mitchell 1976; Hayes 1981). The plan was claimed by the government as an effort to expand the outreach of education and was also often touted as the “effort to modernize rural Nepal.” This paper further argues that while it was true that there was short supply of human resources in the “technical areas” it was not the reason for which the new plan was devised and introduced. “Manpower” was merely a pretext to extend the regime’s grip over public life by taking full control of the educational arena, and weeding the erstwhile political actors out from that arena. This was an effort, this paper also argues, to “craft” the future citizens’ minds so as to make them loyal to the system and monarchy by intervening through the textbooks (see Onta 1996) and examinations.

go back

Paper 2: Re-emergence of Gurukul in Nepal: Deconstructing Vedic tradition for Girls
Author: Rajendra Raj Timilsina
Affiliation: PhD candidate, Kathmandu University School of Education, Nepal

Abstract: Vedic Gurukul schools have been reemerging in recent years in Nepal. Gurukul/Veda Vidyashram Management Council have been established under Department of Education for making policies for the Gurukuls. More than one hundred and fifty such schools have been affiliated to the council. There are dozens of such schools which have not registered yet, as officials informed. Some of the registered Gurukuls found inclusive which are deconstructing the tradition of Veda learning. Some of the Gurukuls have been running only for girls as well.

Methodologically, the author have observed several Gurukuls in different parts of the country, interviews were conducted with the school management side as well Vedic experts on re-emergence of the Veda Vidyalaya and Veda practice by female in such Schools. Some are running as orthodox way, some are modifying the traditions slightly and some of newly emerged Gurukul have been deconstructing the tradition in several ways.

Hindu tradition generally rejects to chant Vedic mantras by women. No female priest has been found for regular rituals in Nepali society so far. Biologically menstruation and culturally Upanayana Sanskar are taken as major obstacles in achieving the skills of Vedic knowledge. Some literatures state Dwija (toice born cast) lady can learn Veda either after Upanayana (Bratabandha) or marridge.

However, there are few Gurukuls which have been teaching Veda and Vedic skills for girls. Some have teaching only to Brahman girls and other one has been teaching inclusively. Brahman, Chhetri, Janajati, Madheshi, Tharu and Dalit girls have been learning Veda in the girls’ Gurukul as similar as boys’ Gurukuls do. The paper finds that a multiple ethnic group of the girls is being produced as female priests in Kathmandu.

This paper discusses on re-emerging Veda Vidyalaya in generally and inclusive classes in girls’ Gurukul specifically.

go back

Paper 3: Examining INGOs’ Support for the Education of Marginalised Girls in Nepal
Author: Shristi Sijapati1 and Damodar Khanal2
Affiliation: 1MSc. International Student, University of Manchester, England; 2Campaigner for Save the Children UK

Abstract: Many I/NGOs have been found to show interest in contributing to girl’s education, especially the marginalised ones from the developing world. Nepal being one of the least developed with significant gender disparity, it is quite obvious that there is ample scope in this. However, in this regard, it becomes imperative to first question what barriers the marginalised girls from Nepal face in the process of getting education. Moreover, it is equally important to explore what kind of supports I/NGOs can best provide to these marginalised girls for their education.

This paper is written based on the master’s research during the authors M.Sc. course in International Development from the University of Manchester. This research focuses on the theme of providing educational support to marginalised girls through I/NGOs and tries to explore the main challenges in the process and make some suggestions for improving the current status.

This has been carried out through literature review on the topic at the global and national level as well as through primary data collection from interviews with suitable informants. Face-to-face and Skype interviews were conducted with education experts from Nepal and concerned project staffs and beneficiaries of the selected case. Information collected from these various sources were critically analysed and profoundly discussed. Finally, conclusions have been drawn and the recommendations have been made.

The research throws light on the challenges faced by I/NGOs in providing education to marginalised girls. It shows how education is influenced by a complex range of interconnected factors. It also reveals the challenges for including marginalised girls in education both within classrooms and outside the school gates, within families and communities. It also extracts some of the conclusions drawn and lessons learned from the experiences of Nepal and more specifically from the STEM project during the last three years of its support to marginalised girls in Kailali district of Nepal. Based on all these different sources of information, it even makes some specific recommendations focusing on all the actors in the educational community and the different elements of the educational sector. These recommendations include multiple strategies addressing the different level. Thus, for example, at the national level, suggestions have been made for poverty reduction and employment generation; at the district level, establishment of all-girls schools and development of grade-specific tests to test the learning has been suggested while, at the local level, expansion of Parents for Quality Education (P4QE), SLC support and other vocational trainings has been suggested.

Keywordseducation, marginalised girls, I/NGO support, multiple strategies, Nepal.

go back


Panel A6
Chair:  Seira Tamang, Independent researcher
Discussant: Jeevan Baniya, Researcher, Social Science Baha

Paper 1: 22 Houses Near the River: Reflections on Reputation, Home, and the Trials of Youth during Nepal’s Post-Earthquake Reconstruction
Author: Andrew Haxby
Affiliation: MI. PhD candidate in Anthropology, University of Michigan

Abstract: In the days following the great Nepal earthquake of 2015, there arose a massive grassroots movement in Kathmandu as residents gathered relief materials to send to damaged rural areas. Though this movement attracted people of all ages, there was noticeable overrepresentation of young Nepalis, many of whom had moved to Kathmandu and were now sending tarps, food and medicine back to their own destroyed villages, altruistic actions that also brought to the fore questions of their own identity, class, obligation and home. This paper follows the story of one such youth, a young Tamang man who in the months after the earthquake, when much of this initial grassroots work had already ended, raised over 80,000 USD with his father from foreign donors, and led a reconstruction project in the village he had left when he was ten years old. Thrust into a leadership position after having kept only a tenuous connection to the village through his early adult life, this man was mediating conflicts and negotiating political connections in an area that was both his home and his past, while also wrestling with his role in his own family. This paper explores the complicated questions of identity this labor created, as well as the unique intersections between mobility and home that arose in the earthquake’s aftermath. In doing so, it asks how the earthquake, which interrupted the long-term plans and dreams of so many families, might have also created an opening for the youth to assert themselves socially and politically, and what the consequences of this have been.

go back

Paper 2: Rebuilding Nepal: Women’s Roles in Political Transition and Post-Disaster Recovery
Author: Briana Mawby1 and Anna Applebaum1
Affiliation: 1Hillary Rodham Clinton Research Fellow, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, USA

Abstract: Communities experiencing or emerging from conflict are often affected by natural disasters as well, creating unique and intersecting challenges. It is important to understand how fragile communities respond to and address both conflict and disaster relief, rather than examining these as separate and distinct processes. Furthermore, it is crucial to understand the key roles that women play in this intersection; research shows women play particular roles following conflict and disasters, and understanding women’s participation in these overlapping contexts is critical to effective recovery and reconstruction. This study examines the nexus of post-conflict transition and disaster relief and reconstruction, via Nepal as a case study. Women in Nepal have been very active in the political transition, influencing constitutional reform, transitional justice, and legal reform, and have been leaders in organizing disaster relief, providing services to underserved communities and physically rebuilding communities. This study draws from semi-structured interviews conducted in August 2016 with 31 civil society leaders and government officials in Nepal to produce best practices for facilitating and supporting women’s involvement in the nexus of conflict and disaster. The report is centered on two research questions: How have women been involved in Nepal’s political transition since 2006? How have women contributed to the management of and recovery after natural disasters in Nepal since 2006? The paper examines women’s involvement in both of these processes through thematic analysis of the factors that enabled women to work on constitutional reform, transitional justice, legal reform, and disaster recovery as well as the factors that led to the overlap of the roles that women have played in both of these areas of work. The paper provides an introduction to the political economy context of conflict and disaster in Nepal, a discussion of women’s movements in Nepal, a literature review about women and post-conflict reconstruction and women and post-disaster recovery, and analysis of women’s involvement in Nepal in these processes since 2006, based on interviews conducted by the researchers. Finally, the report concludes with best practices intended to serve policymakers in addressing complex situations in states affected by both conflict and disasters in the future. It is vital to understand the roles women in Nepal have played in these two processes and how these roles overlap or intertwine in order to ensure that post-conflict and post-disaster processes support all members of a community and holistically encourage sustainable and equitable reconstruction.

go back

Panel B6
Chair: Nirmal Man Tuladhar, Chair, Social Science Baha
Discussant: N/A

Paper 1: Charismatic Mediumship and Traditional Priesthood: Possession in Himalayan Hinduism
Author: Asaf Sharabi1 and Hagar Shalev2
Affiliation: 1Peres Academic Center, Israel; 2PhD candidate, Asian Studies, President Scholarship Program, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Humanitarians, Israel

Abstract: In the Indian Himalayas, mediums who operate as channels through which deities can communicate with their devotees, function alongside priests who serve local deities. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, the lecture will focus on the question of what is the relation between these two religious roles? We will describe the diverse functions of the religious priests and mediums who serve the deity Mahāsū and see how they are linked to different sources of authority – traditional and charismatic. Since the position of priests is inherited, in order to be a priest one has to be born to a family of Brahmin priests. Mediums, on the other hand, do not need to be born to a family of mediums, because one becomes a medium and sustains his mediumship based on one’s own merit or charisma.

The priests and mediums also differ in their caste background. While the priests are Brahmins, almost all the mediums of Mahāsū are Rajput. Unlike many cases in Pahāṛī societies where the mediums are from low-status castes, the Rajput, together with the Brahmins, constitute the vast majority of high-status castes in Mahāsū’s region. As such, mediumship as practiced by the Rajput is not a case of possession by marginalized individuals or groups, as is sometimes claimed in connection with charisma and spirit-possession. Instead, we will present institutional possession of charismatic individuals, who sometimes perform individual mediumship, concerning individual problems, and sometimes perform public mediumship, concerning public problems. In the latter case this has the potential to counterbalance the role of the priests. Thus, in some cases the mediums can be a source of cultural-religious change, while in other cases they can help sustain the social order. Furthermore, mediums sometimes carry more political-social clout than religious priests.

go back

Paper 2: Beyond ‘Hill Cattle’ and the ‘Holy Cow’, Towards a Haptic History of Animals
Author: Nivedita Nath
Affiliation: PhD candidate, University of California, USA

Abstract: This paper will examine human-cattle interactions in the Kumaun Hills under British colonial rule to problematize persistent equations between ‘native culture’ and timeless, pristine ‘nature’. It will challenge conventional environmental histories which describe Kumauni life in terms of the constraints of physical geography. Cattle and Kumauni conceptions of animals will thus emerge as central agents of history. Drawing upon recent interventions in the history of animals, this paper will argue that colonial homologies of race and space as well as customary ideas of pollution and purity were simultaneously inscribed upon and written through the body of the cow. It is hoped that this history of human-cattle interactions in the Western Himalayas will bear upon both spatial history as well as contemporary debates about cow politics in South Asia.

Contestation over the sacredness of the cow remains an important issue in modern India, yet an overwhelming focus on communal politics between ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’ often elides its implications for other marginalized groups. In the Western Himalayas, for instance, the enforced proximity between menstruating women and cows has been ignored. Scholars have tried to debunk the ‘myth of the holy cow’ through careful analyses of the long and uneven career of cows in high Hindu, Sanskrit texts. Their works present a crucial challenge to the essentialist trope of the ‘holy cow’. However, even in such revisionist readings, the cow does not emerge as an agent in the trans-local and transcendent discussion of its sanctity. Through a ‘haptic history’ of human-animal interactions, this paper will argue that the moving, lactating and excreting body of the animal is not just a backdrop but is at the very heart of the dispute over its social and historical significance.

Problematizing the timeless image of the ‘holy cow’ from the standpoint of localized human-cattle interactions requires a precise definition of the ‘local’ and its representativeness with respect to the rest of the subcontinent. Even though the official construction of locality in Kumaun separated the region from the plains and the high mountain passes, a cursory attentiveness to the movements of cattle immediately muddies such linear divisions of highland/lowland enforced by colonial environmental rationales. By taking the official category of ‘hill cattle’ as its subject of analysis, this paper will question the manner in which locality was mapped onto bovines. Instead it will look beyond state space to consider cows as participants in place-making.

go back

Paper 3: The Public Life of a Royal Scribe: Displaying Indra’s Flag in 18th Century Kathmandu
Author: Michael C. Baltutis
Affiliation: Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies and Anthropology, University of Wisconsin

Abstract: Though celebrated virtually nowhere in India today, the presence of the festival of Indra in Sanskrit texts of many different genre signals the prevalence of its annual performance throughout India at the turn of the first millennium. Celebrated widely at a popular level, this festival also served official ends, as royal authors employed this lofty festival as a literary trope in their astronomical, architectural, and ritual texts for the establishment and maintenance of empire. The content of these texts reinforces the identity of the beneficiaries of the festival’s performance through their consistent attention to the king, his family, his officials, his capital city, and his kingdom as a whole.

The sole surviving contemporary performance of the classical Indra festival in Kathmandu, Nepal, also focuses on the royal object of Indra’s pole/flag, though its use there is of a rather modern provenance. The Shah dynasty established its empire through its three-part deployment of the festival in the 18th century. First, the 1768 Indra festival provided the setting for the successful Shah invasion of the Kathmandu Valley, after which they moved the capital city from Bhaktapur to Kathmandu. Second, the priests of the Shah dynasty introduced this festival to their new capital city of Kathmandu in the 18th century and made it correspond to, and cover over, an extant local Newar festival that possessed its own powerful royal deity, Bhairav. Finally, they commissioned the composition of texts prescribing the festival’s performance and describing its immense and royal benefits.

This paper will detail how one of these texts, Indradhvajotsava Kathana, composed by Śakti Vallabha Bhaṭṭācārya Arjyala, the poet of the Shah court in the early 19th century, epitomizes the tension between these two festivals, which continue to be celebrated simultaneously every autumn in Kathmandu. Though this text clearly draws on elements of both the local Newar and universal Indra festivals, Arjyala’s strategic reproduction of classical Sanskrit texts in the Kathana assists in the Shah court’s re-construction of the performance of the Indra festival as Sanskritic and classically Hindu and serves as a strategy for re-constructing the Indra festival as a means for the establishment of the nascent Shah empire.

go back