Day 3 – 2017

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Day 3: 28 July (Friday)
SESSION 7: 9 – 11 am
Panel A7 
Panel B7 
Chair: Mahendra Lawoti, Professor, Western Michigan University, USA
Discussant: Sujeet Karn, Independent researcher 
Belonging and Recognition 
Chair: Krishna P. Adhikari, Research Fellow, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA), University of Oxford, UK
Discussant: Rajendra Raj Timilsina, PhD Candidate, Kathmandu University, Nepal
Seira Tamang
Independent researcher
Arjun Bahadur BK
Independent Researcher
Feyzi Ismail
Senior Teaching Fellow, Department of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London, UK
Gaurav Lamichhane
PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, Germany
James Sharrock
Independent researcher
BREAK: 11 – 11:30 am (refreshments will be served in the dining hall)
SESSION 8: 11:30 am – 1:30 pm
Panel A8 
Panel B8 
Nepali Youth and the Job Market
Chair: Pramod Bhatta, Senior Researcher, Martin Chautari, Kathmandu
Discussant: David Gellner, Chair, Britain-Nepal Academic Council
Diminishing Returns of Resources in Nepal
Chair: Nayna Jhaveri, Independent researcher
Discussant: Feyzi Ismail, Senior Teaching Fellow, Department of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London, UK 
Laura Kunreuther
Director of Anthropology, Bard College, USA
Nishesh Chalise
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, Augsburg College, USA
Mona Shrestha Adhikari
Fellow, South Asia Watch on Trade Economics and Environment, (SAWTEE), Kathmandu
Romain Valadaud
PhD Candidate, Geography Institute, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
Ram Narayan Shrestha
PhD Candidate, South Asian University, India
LUNCH BREAK: 1:30 – 2:30 pm (served in the dining hall)
SESSION 9: 2:30 am – 4:30 pm
Panel A9
Panel B9
Citizenship, Democracy and Human Rights
Chair: Rajendra Pradhan, Managing Director, Nepa School of Social Sciences and Humanities 
Discussant: Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST)
Nepali Imaginings
Chair: Claire Martinus,  Lecturer, Anthropology, University of Lille 3, France
Discussant: James Sharrock, Independent researcher 
Sanjay Sharma
Master’s in Political Science, Central European University, Hungary
Neha Choudhary
Independent Researcher
Agastaya Thapa
PhD candidate, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
Shishir Lamichhane
Research Officer, Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice, Nepal
Bal Bahadur Thapa
Lecturer, Central Department of English, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Mahendra Lawoti
Professor, Department of Political Science, Western Michigan University, USA
Kalyan Bhandari
Lecturer in Events, Hospitality & Tourism, School of Business and Enterprise, University of the West of Scotland, UK
Closing Remarks
Nirmal Man Tuladhar, Social Science Baha
Closing Remarks
Katsuo Nawa, Nepal Academic Network (Japan)


Panel A7: Securing the status quo: donors, development and reconstruction in post-war Nepal
Panel Convener: Seira Tamang, Independent Researcher
Chair: Mahendra Lawoti, Professor, Western Michigan University, USA
Discussant: Sujeet Karn, Independent Researcher

Panel Abstract: This panel analyses post-war Nepal from a broadly political, economic and social perspective to construct a holistic understanding of the past decade of upheaval and change. It focuses on the alliances between international donors and national elites, and the forms of development, reconstruction and humanitarianism that claim to rebuild the state and secure new forms of state-citizen relations.  Contrary to such assertions, the papers reveal how these interventions have instead served to preserve the status quo, and enable the re-emergence and dominance of traditionalist politics. For those who have suffered the brunt of the war and earthquakes, the last decade has meant little in terms of meaningful political and socio-economic change.

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Paper 1: Enabling ‘business as usual’: Donors and peacebuilding in Nepal post 2006
Author: Seira Tamang
Affiliation: Independent Researcher

Paper Abstract: Political culture, corruption, the feudal state and other specifically ‘Nepali’ characteristics form key cornerstones of analyses examining the return to traditionalist politics in post-2006 Nepal.  The reassertion of the political right has been expressed not least in the 2015 Constitution, the intransigence of the political elites in response to the Madhesi uprisings, the glaring lack of accountability with respect to relief and reconstruction following the earthquakes and the ignoring of the constitutional provisions on inclusion by non-other than the Judicial Council headed by the chief justice while nominating 80 judges for the high courts.

Obscured in such accounts, however, is the role of international development actors and the international development agenda – as deployed during the Maoist’s 10-year civil war, and as deployed for peacebuilding – in reinforcing status-quoist politics. By first briefly discussing how international development agencies framed ‘the Maoist conflict’ to carry on with ‘business as usual,’ this paper argues that the naming and framing of the conflict and “post-conflict” by these actors has promoted the idea that mainstream development was, and is, the panacea to political problems.  Apart from ignoring the complexities and contradictions of post-war state-building and development in Nepal, it has also contributed to the creation of an enabling environment for a return to conservatism and of conservative forces. The paper includes analyses of prominent donor frameworks post-2006, including the Nepal Peace and Development Strategy 2010-2015, and portrayals of Nepal’s transition to peace.  Concluding remarks point to the manner in which ‘development’ is often portrayed as a solution, whereas in fact the discourse/rhetoric and practice of development is imbricated in the restructuring of the elite-centred post 2006 Nepali state.

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Paper 2:  The post-war direction in Nepal: deepening capital, deepening inequality
Author: Feyzi Ismail
Affiliation: SOAS, University of London, UK

Paper abstract: The last decade in Nepal has encompassed both great hope and bitter disillusionment over the trajectory of politics and development. While challenges to the status quo over the past three decades – the people’s movements, the Madhesi uprisings and the People’s War – have contained within them not only a series of political demands, but socio-economic demands, fundamental socio-economic change has been elusive. Figures show that inequality has been rising since the 1980s undermining gains in human development. This paper focuses on the economic reforms advocated by major international donors and consecutive national governments in the post-war and post-earthquake context, arguing that the overwhelming emphasis on economic growth – even ‘inclusive’ economic growth – has led to intensified precarity, informality and inequality. The particular economic reforms associated with reconstruction – further privatisation, commodification of land, the strengthening of the private sector and liberalising of the finance sector etc., have created circumstances in which the dominance of international capital and Nepal’s (neo)liberalisation have been reinforced. The fact that these economic reforms are taking place in a context of the reassertion of the right following the end of the People’s War and the weakening of a progressive, left-wing challenge to the status quo, both within civil society and amongst the political classes, has exacerbated efforts to reverse inequality. Without a break with the neoliberal development model, reconstruction will not reverse the trends in inequality and socio-economic change will remain elusive.

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Paper 3: Remote response: international humanitarianism and Nepal’s 2015 earthquakes
Author: James Sharrock
Affiliation: Independent Researcher

Paper abstract: This paper will focus on analysing the responses of UN agencies and international NGOs to the 2015 Nepal earthquakes. This will include discussion of how international relief was carried out, the ways in which aid programmes drew on new humanitarian practices and how international responses intersected with and legitimised Nepal Government responses. The paper argues that in order to understand the failures of the earthquake response we need to understand how humanitarian action has been changing into a deeper ‘remoteness’ that stresses technological innovation, self-resiliency and, in the context of disaster response, ‘owner-driven’ reconstruction. In addition, the paper argues that these new forms of humanitarianism were particularly vulnerable to old forms of manipulation and capture by a resilient Nepali state, intent on returning to development-as-usual. By discussing needs assessments, the housing reconstruction programme, and the use of cash transfers, the paper shows how both international humanitarian and national government responses together produced failure. The paper concludes by stressing the need for greater critical engagement with international humanitarian organisations in Nepal and the reconstruction agenda as a necessary part of ‘doing something’ after the 2015 earthquakes.

Panel B7
Chair: Krishna P. Adhikari, Research Fellow, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA), University of Oxford, UK
Discussant: Rajendra Raj Timilsina, PhD Candidate, Kathmandu University, Nepal

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Paper 1: Social Stratification and Dalit Leadership in Nepal: An Ethnographic Study of a Village in Western Nepal
Author: Arjun Bahadur BK
Affiliation: Independent Researcher

Abstract: Caste-based social stratification has placed Dalits in the lowest stratum of society and hence denied their involvement, as ‘Untouchables’, in every aspect of life in Nepal. The repercussion of the age-old system is ultimately reflected in the social and political leadership as well. The state and the political parties adopted inclusive and participatory democracy quite recently especially in the wake of the Second People’s Movement of 2006. However, the social unacceptability of Dalits ultimately has led to a deficit of Dalit leadership in both social and political domains.

Primarily, the implementation of inclusion is not smoothly practised due to reluctance to cooperate by ‘high-caste’ and ethnic groups dominating the decision-making posts. Members of marginal communities, especially Dalit leaders, are highly likely to get denied and unaccepted in both national and local election, which causes low representation. The issue of the denial of Dalit leadership is often raised by academicians, scholars, and the civil society community. As the issue is not systematically explored and studied, this paper will examine how Dalits are denied leadership roles, especially at the nomination stage of the election process, which then leads to their exclusion from national and local elections and therefore from other important bodies of government. The research methodology is largely qualitative, and the basic source of data are collected in the course of field work from November 2015 to March 2016 in a village of Kaski district, Nepal. These data will be supplemented with some in-depth interviews with four national and four local-level leaders of major political parties and others representing diverse, regions, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds. The collected data would be transcribed, coded, categorized by theme, and analyzed. The purpose of the study is to identify the gap and discrepancies between policy and practice of inclusion of the state and political party policy and practice based on the experience of Dalit leaders.

Key words: Dalits, social stratification, exclusion, inclusion, unacceptability, representation

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Paper 2: Involuntary Childlessness in Nepal: Instances of Competition, Contestations, and Conflicts, among the Plural Healing Practices and Healing Journeys
Author: Gaurav Lamichhane
Affiliation: PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology, South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, Germany

Abstract: This paper is a part of an ongoing PhD project that seeks to fill the gap that exists in the current scholarship on infertility, which is heavily skewed toward female infertility and biomedical interventions. The major objective of the project is to understand how different healing practices that exist in the medically plural landscape in Nepal shape the experience of involuntarily childless men. This will be done partly by investigating the nature of the competition, contestation, conflict, appropriation, and entanglement between different treatment and coping possibilities for infertility found in Nepal (biomedical, ritual and non-biomedical) and understanding how Nepali men coping with infertility negotiate between various options of healing practices they encounter in their therapeutic quest.

However, for the purpose of this paper, I will engage with the objective by limiting myself to the data I have gathered from: i) an ethnographic study (non-participant observation), since October 2016, of an infertility clinic in Kathmandu and interviews (semi-structured questions and informal discussions) with the patients (both male and female), doctors, and the staff in the clinic; ii) an interview with a healer who offers Astrology, Ayurveda, and Tantra healing services; iii) interviews with two men I met through snowball sampling method. With the few ethnographic narratives from my data, I aim to illustrate the ways in which various healing strategies for infertility found in Nepal compete, contest and come in conflict with each other. The theoretical framework of medical pluralism in Asian medical systems (Leslie 1976, 1980; Sujatha and Abraham 2012; Naraindas, 2006; Naraindas, Quack and Sax 2014) and Pigg’s work on the “questions of the villager’s belief” (1996) will allow me to analyze and comprehend the asymmetrical relationship between plural healing options pursued by the Nepali men coping with infertility.

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Panel A8
Chair: Pramod Bhatta, Senior Researcher, Martin Chautari, Kathmandu
Discussant: David Gellner, Chair, Britain-Nepal Academic Council

Paper 1: Ear-witnesses and Conduits of Voices: On the Labor of UN Field Interpreters
Author: Laura Kunreuther
Affiliation: Director of Anthropology, Bard College, New York

Abstract: This paper focuses on the work of interpreters, focusing on those who worked for the UN Office for the High Commission of Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), during and after the Maoist civil war.  The paper is the beginning of an ethnographic study of interpreters that aims to provide insights into the way translation is linked to broader global projects from within a specific ‘field’. What is entailed materially and affectively in speaking two voices at once – neither of which is “one’s own”?   What happens when the medium for circulating another’s voice is another human being, whose labor is often compared with machines? I explore interpreters’ work through the lens of translatability that goes beyond the problems of language correspondence.  We must also consider the materiality of sound and voice, the physical immediacy of being with one’s ‘source’, subjectivity and the body.  Working within a global bureaucracy that values transparency and unmediated evidence, interpreters necessarily become invisible, a part of the broader infrastructural apparatus of the UN, even as their work is essential to realizing the international goals of the organization.

Interpreters fall into a category of modern workers and technologies that might be thought of as conduits of voice.  Other conduits of voice might include: stenographers, diplomatic and religious translators, voice-over artists, telephone captionists, but also technologies like radios, telephones, and voice recorders.   The primary work of the human conduits of voice is to faithfully reproduce and recycle the speech of others to produce as close as possible an accurate copy of the original or in UN terminology ‘the source’. Insofar as their work is assumed to produce mechanical-like fidelity, interpreters are often compared to machines, either in celebration of their remarkable skills or as a means to degrade their humanity and assert their lower status within the UN hierarchy.  Yet, in contrast to machines, interpreters must understand the sounds they transform into another code.

The ideal of transparency – while certainly not new – has gained prominence in global bureaucracies during the 1990s through both economic and government reforms that celebrate information as a cure to many ills (Hetherington 2011: 4-5).  Less acknowledged is that the information inscribed in transparent documents comes through the messy and contingent encounters between people, such as UN officers, interpreters, and the people with whom they speak.  To produce seemingly unmediated information, interpreters must disappear from the scenes they describe. Interpreters are ‘voicebox’ of another’s words, and their dissociation from both the ‘principal’ and ‘authorship’ of the speech they produce creates the illusion of transparent evidence of possible truths.  In the context of Nepal, I explore the tensions and collaborations entailed between interpreters and human rights officers, as well as differences in the experience of ‘international’ versus ‘national’ interpreters, through interviews and in-depth stories about their work.

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Paper 2: Analysing the Construction of Gendered Work: A Case of Hotels, Resorts and Casinos in the Kathmandu Valley
Author: Mona Shrestha Adhikari
Affiliation: Fellow, South Asia Watch on Trade Economics and Environment, Nepal

Abstract: The paper attempts to analyse how gendered work gets constructed in the hotels, resorts and casinos drawing on a feminist research conducted in six establishments – two samples from each category of five star hotels, deluxe resorts and casinos. The research uses mixed methods of 21 questionnaires, 65 semi-structured interviews of male and female workers, managers, male family members and policy experts and observations made at some at the sample establishments.

The study uses the concept of occupational segregation to unpack the gender division of labour by analysing vertical and horizontal segregation and shows how gendering occurs at the structural level of the establishments. The paper argues that gendered work is constructed by three distinct but related dimensions, namely: a) the gender division of labour; b) the gendered ideologies of managers and workers; and c) the gendering of skills provided through training.

The research finds that there is a ‘gendering’ of organisational or establishment structures (hierarchies and jobs), the ideologies of managers and workers, the skills provided in training and the performance of certain aspects of interactive service work. Another dimension concerns the gendered ideologies held by managers and workers, which further legitimise and/or contest the gender division of labour. These gendered ideologies are underpinned by essentialist views that attach attributes of masculinity and femininity to certain jobs which are considered as ‘men’s’ and ‘women’s’ domains as if they are ‘hermitically sealed’ which leads to workers ‘doing gender’ at work. In addition, a few women who challenged such gendered ideologies could perhaps be seen as ‘undoing gender’ as they work in non-traditional jobs. They faced male resistance and had to prove that they could do the same work as men, and consciously challenged the notion that women are not fit to work in certain departments.

A third dimension relates the way gendered work is constructed, concerns the training provided to workers by the establishments. Workers are trained with various skills that are not mutually exclusive and there is a gendering of skills. Managers’ accounts indicate the emphasis on training workers in order to meet the customers’ expectations of ‘quality service’ as well as maintaining the ‘standardised service’ of the establishments. This means there is a gendering of skills as men and women workers acquire different sets of skills which also depends on where they work within and across the different establishments; this can be understood as workers doing gender at work.

Thus, the research finds that the nature of gendered work varies depending on the type of sector/industry in which work is performed. It shows that the country context is important; the workforce in hotel and casino sector in Nepal is not feminised overall but certain occupations within it are becoming feminised. This is different to the findings of the studies conducted in the Western contexts.

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Paper 3: Work-related Migration Aspirations in youths of Nepal: An Empirical Analysis
Author: Ram Narayan Shrestha
Affiliation: South Asian University, New Delhi, India

Abstract: There has been huge exodus of migration (both internal and international) in Nepal in recent time. The rural villages are ‘dying’ with only old people, children and women are left in the village. 27 of 75 districts has seen decline in the population in 2011 census as compared to 2001 census. Nepal Living Standard Survey 2011 shows that 53 percent of household has at least one absentee members. This has huge impact on the rural development. The mobility is highest among youths. The trend is ever increasing. The youth migration is increasingly linked to youth unemployment. The youth unemployment is very high in Nepal (19.2 percent) as compared to the general unemployment rate of 3.1 percent. This huge exodus of the youth has huge dynamic impact on the economy (both in positive and negative ways). So it is essential to understand why youth are interested to migrate.

The purpose of this study is to empirically investigate the determinants of the work-related migration aspirations among youths in Nepal. Among various determinants of the migration aspirations, I investigate how employment status and type (quality) of the employment affects migration aspirations in detail.  This is more relevant in case of Nepal as where most of the labour migration taking place from Nepal is unskilled and semi-skilled. Whether it is better job opportunities that are attacking people or its compulsion that detrimental labour market prospect that are pushing people for migration. Apart from that the aspiration reflected by youth may represents their optimism or pessimism of the future prospect in their home country. This should be seen in the light of potential future migration and is related to the urbanization and rural development.

We use data from School-to-work-transition (SWTS) survey from International Organization of Labour (ILO), conducted in 2013, covering the youth of age 15-29 year-olds. The survey contains the information on various aspects of labour market conditions, history of economic activities and perceptions and aspirations of youths. Using multinomial logistic regression, we analyse the various determinants of the work-related youth migration aspirations. We analyse baseline model for whole sample including both employed and unemployed youths and two separate analyses for the employed and unemployed youths.

The study highlights effects of various individual characteristics, quality of job and personal perceptions in forming work-related migration aspiration formation among youths of Nepal. The study shows that employed youths have migration aspirations similar to that of unemployed youths. This study also highlights the quality of the job in migration aspiration formations. The findings of the study have policy implications.

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Panel B8
Chair: Nayna Jhaveri, Independent researcher
Discussant: Feyzi Ismail, Senior Teaching Fellow, Department of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London, UK

Paper 1: Exploring Social and Economic Disparities in Nepal
Author: Nishesh Chalise
Affiliation: Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, Augsburg College, Minnesota

Abstract: Nepal is home to people of various ethnicities that do not have equal access to power and privileges. Specifically, Khas-Aryan groups are considered to be at the center while Indigenous and Dalit groups have been at the periphery of this power structure. Discussion on inequality is complicated in three different ways. First, the lack of analysis at the national level on the social and economic manifestations of inequality diminishes the magnitude of the problem. An understanding of how different groups fare across multiple indicators is essential for raising awareness of such disparities. Second, one could argue that rurality is the primary determinant of inequality. Significant portion of people live in rural areas that have significantly lower access to resources. The stark contrast between urban and rural areas is easily observed in Nepal, making an analysis that can disentangle the ethnicity and rurality components quite significant. Finally, Nepal has seen improvements in social and economic indicators over the years, which reinforce the idea that inequality is a past phenomenon and every group experiences the benefits of development equally. Based on these challenges in examining disparities, three research questions guide the analysis: 1) how does this inequitable access to power and privileges manifest itself in social and economic terms?, 2) how does unequal access to resources look like with the added dimension of rurality?, and 3) How have these disparities changed in the past decade? This study explores these questions using publicly available nationally represented data collected through the Demographic Health Survey (DHS). Data published on 2001, 2006, and 2011 were combined to look at trends of inequities for different ethnic groups in different regions. The combined dataset includes a nationally representative sample of 28,135 households. Wealth is one of the main indicators analyzed in this study, which is a variable representing a mix of items owned by a household. The wealth variable was developed using principle component analysis and is already included in the survey. The items that determine a household’s wealth index varies for rural and urban areas. Although at an early stage of analysis, the study shows that even though poorer households (based on the wealth index) are concentrated in rural areas there are significant differences between region and ethnicity. This suggests that policies and programs in both government and non-government sectors needs to be cognizant that benefits are not shared equitable across groups and region.

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Paper 2: A Combined Analytical Narrative to Study the Politicization of Irrigation Management in the Tarai: Critical Realism, Hydrosocial Theory and Sociotechnical Approach
Author: Romain Valadaud
Affiliation: PhD candidate, Geography Institute, University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to argue that the articulation of two different perspectives on irrigation systems, the Hydrosocial Cycle and the Irrigation Studies, is a compelling way to shed some light on the production of the social reality and power relations in the Sunsari Morang Irrigation System, one of the biggest irrigation system in Nepal, situated in the Far Eastern Tarai.

There has been a long tradition of institutionalist irrigation studies in Nepal, well studied by the Nobel Price Elinor Ostrom and her team of researchers. However, many social scientists have since then criticized Ostrom’s views on irrigation, as well as the irrigation policies that have been drawn from her institutionalist approach, namely Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM). The main critic addressed to this theory is its lack of socio-historic depth, neglecting in its conclusions the importance of power relations and social inequalities in the access to irrigation water (Klooster, 2000; Mosse, 2003). Indeed, PIM has been known to not address inequalities in access to water, and sometimes increase them. Such a situation has been observed on some irrigation systems in Nepal and around the world (Manor, 2004; Pradhan, 2011).

In this paper, we look at irrigation management through the lenses of a historical constructivist approach. Constructivism sees social reality as the production of social interactions between actors taking into account the constraints of their social environment: actors are constrained by the social structures they interact in, but keep a reflexive capacity to act strategically to change or reproduce these social structures through time (Archer, 1995). More precisely, we will here use the constructivist theoretical framework of the Hydrosocial Cycle (Linton, 2010; 2014), showing that water issues are not made only of water, but also of interactions between different levels of actors (Candau et al., 2015). Thus, we wish to study first the intertwining between irrigation policies and social structures, and how this equation produces an irrigation management reality on the SMIS, often different from the theory, by replacing it in the historical dimension of the evolution of local political and social relations. Then, we focus on understanding how water policies are interpreted, integrated and transformed by local actors, for individual or group benefits. We will in the end try to show how the deconstruction and co-construction of the participatory discourse has allowed the reconstruction of the local political arena through the control of the irrigation water.

To balance this ontological approach of water management, often disconnected from the realities of the field, we follow in our work the attempt made by Mollinga (2013) to use Irrigation Studies as a socio-technical approach in order to balance the hydrosocial analysis. By focusing on the irrigation systems “from within”, this approach is able to feed field data to the mostly theoretical approach of Hydrosocial Cycle, and therefore helps us to conceptualize with more accuracy how “hydrosocial relations” are produced, reproduced and contested over a territory. By doing this, we hope to both further the theoretical research around water and society and contribute to improve the knowledge of water management in Nepal’s Taraï.


– Archer, M. (1995) Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

– Candau et al. (2015). “Construction de la plaine rizicole du Népal sous le prisme e la gestion de l’eau et des processus de territorialisation dans le Sunsari “. Espace Géographique 2015-2 [online].

– Klooster, D. (2000) “Institutional choice, community, and struggle: a case study of forest comanagement in Mexico”. World Development 28(1):1-20.

– Linton J. (2010) What is Water? The History of Modern Abstraction. UBC Press, Vancouver

– Linton J. (2014) “The hydrosocial cycle: Defining and mobilizing a relational-dialectal approach to water”. Geoforum 57: 170-180.

– Manor J. (2004). « User Committees: A Potentially Damaging Second Wave of Decentralisation? », European Journal of Development Research, vol. 16 n◦ 1, pp. 192-213.

– Mollinga, P. (2014). Canal Irrigation and the hydrosocial cycle, the morphogenesis of contested water control in the Tungabhadra Left Bank Canal, South India Geoforum 57:192–204.

– Mosse D. (2003). The Rule of Water: Statecraft, Ecology and Collective Action in South India. Oxford University Press, New Delhi.

– Pradhan P. (2011). Erosion of social capital. Farmer Managed Irrigation System Promotion Trust, Katmandou, Népal.

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Panel A9
Chair: Rajendra Pradhan, Managing Director, Nepa School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Discussant: Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST)

Paper 1: Gendered Citizenship: National Security versus Equality
Authors: Sanjay Sharma1 and Neha Choudhary2
Affiliation: 1Master’s in Political Science, Central European University, Hungary; 2Recruitment and Migration Manager, FSI Worldwide Limited Emp Nepal Pvt. Ltd.

Abstract: Membership to a nation-state and how it can be passed on to the subsequent generation of “eligible citizens” have been highly-contested issues throughout history. During the time when Nepal promulgated its constitution in 2015, the citizenship provision generated much dissatisfaction and debates given its discriminatory nature, particularly against women. One of the widely publicized debates was that between lawmaker and former Deputy Prime Minister Bhim Rawal, who is in complete support of the current provisions, and two women’s rights activists, Sapana Pradhan Malla (former lawmaker) and Aruna Upreti who vehemently opposed the discriminatory provisions. This paper aims to further explore this debate through the use of discourse analysis, basing the analysis on the op-eds and television interviews by the two sides, where, while Malla and Upreti stress on equal rights to citizenship while Rawal keeps defending the current provisions stating that it is in the best interest of national security and sovereignty.

The paper places this debate within the wider literature on gender and nation which contends that, historically, laws governing nation-states have largely been masculinist and have often served to marginalize women and delegitimize their agency. The new citizenship provision of the constitution deems that for an individual to be the citizens of Nepal, both the father and mother have to be Nepali citizens. This has been put forth instead of the “or” provision, which would have given independence to both the father and mother to pass on the citizenship. Concurring with Malla and Upreti, this paper argues that this replacement has established that the citizenship provision is gendered, guided by the heteronormative concepts of a family and has reinforced the patriarchal ideal of male domination in all spheres. Additionally, the paper also argues that the effects of the  citizenship provision in its current form is widespread, excluding not just women but also single parents and LGBTs too.

In the course of exploring both sides of the debate, this paper will elaborate upon the prime issues that have emerged, namely immigration, the “threats” imposed by the open border that Nepal shares with India, the tradition of cross-border marriages and the consequent marginalization brought about by the implementation of the citizenship clause.

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Paper 2: Universal Human Rights Versus Domestic Courts: Rethinking The Cultural Relativist Debate In Nepal
Author: Shishir Lamichhane
Affiliation: Research Officer, Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice, Nepal

Abstract: There has been a unipolar acceptance in the academic arena that there are some legitimate challenges to the universal application of international human rights regime. Interestingly, a huge number of scholarships on this debate have acknowledged that the foundation of universal human rights, that we know today, pledges a great deal to the western ideals and philosophies associated with the western culture and values. This has led cultural relativism as one of the most debated issues in the theories of human rights.

More disturbing is the historical record and the present world order that human rights has played a vital tool in the hands of USA and its allies in legitimizing their interventions in relatively weaker countries. This is yet more dangerous reality and challenge surrounding the human rights discourse; who should determine the violation of human rights and on what parameters is it to be measured? This leads to the main question that I attempt to analyze in this paper, shifting off from the debate of whether the human rights are universal in nature and indulging into the discourse of whether human rights should be universal.

In Nepal, moreover, with the state ratifying more human rights treaties, a huge number of organizations have been established to monitor and support the government implement those treaties. Therefore, a major scholarship has devoted to the status of implementation in Nepal of those treaties. This is merely looking at Nepalese society through the lens of United Nations and whether the Nepalese society is actually shaping as is required by the United Nations. This approach does not consider society as an equally important stakeholder in determining the rules by which they actually want to be governed.

Arguing for the need of a contextual model of understanding about human rights, I make a case study of Kumari practice in Nepal. Having the practice legally challenged in the Supreme Court, I make a reflection upon the approach taken by the Supreme Court of Nepal with regards to the validity of universal human rights in Nepal.

Covering all these aspects, the paper is divided into three parts, excluding introduction and conclusion. The first section provides a brief insight into the concept of cultural relativism and other valid notions for this paper like the idea of Asian Values and the Right of Self-Determination, while the second part provides case laws from the Supreme Court of Nepal bearing reflections of approaches taken by the honorable court with regards to the application of universal human rights in Nepal. The third section paves way for the concluding remarks by providing case study of the Kumari practice in Nepal in favor of a contextual model of understanding of human rights regime.

Keywords: Cultural Relativism, Universal Human Rights, Kumari, Nepal

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Paper 3: Poverty, Diversity and Democracy: Breakdown, Erosion and Endurance in South Asia
Author: Mahendra Lawoti
Affiliation: Professor, Department of Political Science, Western Michigan University

Abstract: Democratization literature points out that democracy has often broken down in poor (Prezworski et al 2000; Lipset 1959; Huntington 1968) and diverse (Horowitz 1985 and 1994; Gurr 1993: Synder 2005; Puddington 2015) societies. Exacerbation of conflict over resources between different classes in poor countries and conflict over recognition and identities among different cultural groups in diverse societies have posed double challenges for sustaining democracy. However, a few diverse and poor countries have been able to overcome the double challenges to sustain democracy (Kohli 2001; Picard 1987; Sandbrook et al. 2007). This paper asks the question: when do poor and diverse countries avoid breakdown of democracy? Specifically, based on literature review of countries where democracy has sustained and broken down, it asks whether accommodative institutions and policies enable diverse and poor countries to avoid breakdown of democracy (Lijphart 1977; Chandra 2005; Prezowrski 2008; Reynolds 2002). It attempts to answer the question by comparing five poor and diverse South Asian countries with three set of democratic outcomes – India, where democracy has endured; Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh where democracy broke down multiple times and Sri Lanka where democracy has sustained but with considerable erosion. The study will employ a structured, focused comparison by asking a same set of questions in the five countries (George and Bennett 2005; Landman 2013; Lijphart 1971), such as did the countries adopt multiple accommodative or non-accommodative institutions and did they formulate and implement expansive or weak pro-poor policies? Did those institutions and policies contribute in the breakdown, erosion or sustenance of democracies in the respective countries? Comparing countries from the same region with similar socio-economic and cultural context but with different political outcomes (dependent variable) and same independent variables (political institutions, policies) with different values would allow rigorous analysis of causes of breakdown, consolidation or erosion. It allows identification of factors that exist in successful cases but not in failure cases (King et al. 1994; Bradly and Collier 2010). The paper will investigate whether India adopted different set of institutions and policies than Sri Lanka, and Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to tackle the challenges posed by poverty and diversity. The study draws upon fieldwork in the five countries over the years, secondary literature, and empirical data from datasets on democracy, welfare expenditure, press freedom etc. The paper will argue that multiple accommodative as well as non-dominating institutions and pro-poor policies that did not threaten the wealthy allowed India to overcome the challenges posed by poverty and diversity and in avoiding breakdown of democracy whereas non-accommodative institutions and weak welfare policies contributed to breakdown of democracy in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. On the other hand, extensive welfare policies prevented breakdown of democracy in Sri Lanka by diffusing the class challenge but non-accommodative institutions led to a protracted violent ethnic conflict that eroded its democracy.

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Panel B9
Chair: Claire Martinus, Lecturer, Anthropology, University of Lille 3, France
Discussant: James Sharrock, Independent researcher

Paper 1: Local Faces and Places: Tourist Art and Representational Practices of Culture and Identity in Darjeeling Hills
Author: Agastaya Thapa
Affiliation: PhD candidate, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

Abstract: Local scroll art consists of hand-painted or embroidered portraits and landscape scenes of Darjeeling usually rendered on black cloth.  They are easily portable for tourist consumption. The local scroll art has over the years undergone much reconstruction, but the idiom in terms of   the subject-matter and form is always about the representation of hill peoples, rendered on cloth, black cloth being the convention. Many other “traditions” of the local scroll art has emerged, and accordingly new nominations have been proffered. It is also referred to as tapeta painting,[1] black cloth painting, Ava Devi painting, alongside scroll art painting. The nineteenth century colonial photographs provide powerful frames for the study of these artefacts in such a way that “tradition” in these arts may actually refer to or be constituted by colonial photography, particularly the ethnographic portraits of the native “types” like Lepcha girl or Tibetan man. Within the visual culture of the Darjeeling hills, one finds an inter-ocular circuit within which certain paradigms are established like the popular boju or ‘grandmother’ figure. The boju’s face is etched with monumental fine lines, each wrinkle depicted as realistically as possible in painting or needlework, as if in a bid to outdo photography. These forms of self-image that the communities in the hill possess and perpetuate have much to do with the colonial past that has significant bearings on the present. Nevertheless, I will demonstrate that the tourist art and other visual artefacts from the hills do much more than feed into the tourism industry, as they perpetuate and consolidate a visual lingua franca by which a viable cultural and political identity for the people get fashioned. Nelson Graburn reminds us that the makers of these artefacts do not only pay heed to the whims of the buyers, but they also imbue these works with values that are important to them.[2] Therefore, it will be immensely important to study these paintings and their archetypes in terms of the meanings and value they accrue and radiate in terms of identity formation and recognition. An investigation into how they contribute to the discourse on ethnicity and representation in visual culture has to be made, especially in parallel with the Gorkhaland Movement- the ongoing struggle for the ethnically Nepalese population in India for political recognition and identity in the national discourse. Therefore, the overarching concern in this study will be an exploration of these postcolonial subjects in the twenty-first century who are looped into such circuits of representation.  By treating the question of identity as contingent and ‘in process,’ I will be establishing time, space, people and institutions as circuits within which practices of representations are constituted and contested.

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Paper 2: A Trajectory of Nepali Modernity: A Narrative of Ruptures and Repairs
Author: Bal Bahadur Thapa
Affiliation: PhD candidate, Central Department of English, Tribhuvan University, Nepal

Abstract: Assuming modernity as a rupture in tradition in line with Nepal’s encounter with British Raj and its subsequent position as a periphery to global capitalism, this paper examines why the age old traditional values and practices, after every significant rupture heralded by forces of modernity, keep shaping values and practices of the modern Nepali society. Despite courting significant components of modernity like nation-state, technology, industrialization, development, democracy, and individual freedom, among others, from the West since the emergence of Nepal as a nation following its unification under the leadership of Prithvi Narayan Shah in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the values and practices emanating from feudalism, patriarchy and the Hindu caste system still persist in Nepal. Likewise, this paper also engages with following questions: What is modernity in different points of history in the context of Nepal? Is it similar to modernity as observed in the West? Or in the previously colonized spaces like India? If not, how are they different? How do vectors of modernity and tradition negotiate with each other? Can we take this negotiation as appropriation of modernity as argued by scholars like Leichty? If so, what are implications of such appropriation?

Following the scattered nodes of modernity’s trajectory in the Nepali society as reflected in the selected cultural products like Nepali novels, travelogues, autobiographies, films and constitutions, this project questions the Nepali society’s appropriation of modernity (Leichty 1994 & 1996). Of course, this paper, unlike Leichty’s work, won’t be limited to the middle class Nepali modernity. However, his notion of ‘suitably modern’ is an interesting issue to deal with. The appropriation of suitable components of modernity seems to be a double edged sword. It seems to reduce modernity into a cosmetic modernity at the cost of institutionalization of modernity. Modernity, as a benchmark of progress, change and development, seems to remain a chimera. The Nepali people, therefore, seem to be obsessed with modernity despite it threatens their traditional values and practices. On the other hand, it seems to protect the Nepali society from the ills of modernity like alienation, malaise, indifference, commodification and objectification prevailing in the Western society. In addition, it seems to help the Nepali society recuperate from the ruptures spurred by modernity, and thereby give it a way to critique modernity.

Since this paper is a part of a larger project, it, for the time being, will only scrutinize Prithvi Narayan Shah’s Dibyopadesh, Diamond Shamsher novel Rana’s Seto Bagh, Narayan Dhakal’s novel Pretkalpa, BS Thapa’s film Maitighar, Rajan Mukarung’s novel Damini Bhir for substantiating the trajectory of modernity from the unification of Nepal to the end of monarchy. Therefore, the selection of texts will be quite eclectic. As this is a cultural historiographical work, it will be divided as per different historical nodes significant for the emergence or arrival of particular components of modernity in Nepal.

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Paper 3: The Sociology of Mt Everest
Author: Kalyan Bhandari
Affiliation: Lecturer, Events, Hospitality & Tourism, School of Business and Enterprise, University of the West of Scotland, UK

Abstract: Mt Everest is an international icon and a heritage of ‘universal’ value. To Nepal, it has wider economic, social, cultural meanings:  it is the lifeline of mountain tourism, it embodies Nepali nationhood and reinforces a sense of identity.  However, it also symbolises the contested side of Nepali national identity that is largely dominated by the cultural landscape of the highlands, overlooking the other provincial heritages of the nation. Despite such a broader significance of the mountain, studies on Mt Everest have largely been dominated by environmental studies and travel narratives, and the question of the sociological significance of the mountain has not received the attention it deserves.  The proposed paper explores the significance of Mt. Everest as a national icon across for Nepali society. The study is driven by the following research question: should Mt Everest continue to stimulate Nepal’s national imagery?

The above question has become pertinent because the newly promulgated constitution of Nepal has recognised that Nepal is a federal republican state, which has warranted a need for forging an inclusive national identity based on pluralist ideology, as older references to Nepali national identity based on the Hindu monarchical system have outlived their purpose. For example, Mt Everest became a unanimous choice when, after the Monarchy was suspended in 2006, the central bank of Nepal began searching for a replacement for the King’s images in Nepali bank notes. Mt Everest has achieved an added importance because of the recent disasters in the Everest region, such as the 2014 avalanche and the April 2015 earthquake, which killed many people in the area of the mountain. These incidents have exposed the fragility of the Himalayan mountains, demystifying the view that they are indomitable, the character for which Mt Everest has been associated in the existence of the Nepali nation. Given such a background, a more grounded understanding of the iconic significance of Mt Everest in the changed political context would be useful in understanding the universality of the mountain as an icon of Nepali national identity. It would also help comprehend ethnic sensitivities towards the deployment of Mt Everest in the national imagery of ‘new’ Nepal.

The paper is based on primary data collected through qualitative interviews (n=20) and focus group discussions (n=2) with members of various national communities represented in the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN).  The NEFIN is an autonomous and politically non-partisan, national level organization consisting of 54 indigenous member organizations widely distributed throughout different regions of Nepal.  Secondary data in the form of various publications and archival records will be consulted from: i) the Rastriya Abhilekhalaya (the National Archive of Nepal); ii) Nepal Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya; and iii) Central Library, TU. The paper will discuss the findings from the interview and focus groups data collected in summer 2016. The research was funded by British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grants – SRG 2015-16 Round.

[1] The term tapeta could be a Nepali corruption of the English word ‘taffeta’ considering the paintings are made on cloth.

[2] Nelson H HGraburn, “Introduction” in Ethnic and Tourist Arts: Cultural Expressions from the Fourth World,   ed. Nelson H.H. Graburn (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976) 26.

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