Developing a culture of marginality

Nepal's current classificatory moment

in Focaal
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  • 1 Yale University sara.shneiderman@yale.edu
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This article examines the complex relationships between marginalized communities, the state, and nonstate actors such as development agencies and social scientists in crafting the classificatory regimes that undergird affirmative action policies. Focusing on the current dynamics of “ethnic restructuring“ amid the broader political process of postconflict “state restructuring“ in Nepal, I suggest that international actors often unwittingly encourage the hardening of ethnic boundaries through development projects that target “marginalized“ populations defined in cultural terms. However, such interventions can also yield unexpected transformations in agentive ethnic consciousness. This ethnographic exploration of current classificatory processes in non-postcolonial Nepal provides an important counterpoint to material from the Indian context, where histories of colonial classification have debatably influenced contemporary categories-and their critique-to a significant extent.

Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

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