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Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka

Since 1996, Nepal has increasingly been drawn into a violent conflict between Maoist rebels and the state, leading to a severe crisis. Thousands of civilians have been killed, and most people in the countryside live in constant fear. Economic hardship has seriously increased. Despite repeated efforts to bring the parties together for peace talks, there is little hope that the violent situation will be resolved in the near future. This article analyzes the complex causes of the emergence of the Maoist insurrection and its success, and sketches the problems impeding a democratic solution to the current situation.

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Building a House in Nepal

Auspiciousness as a Practice of Emplacement

John Gray

The subject of auspiciousness and inauspiciousness in South Asian society has largely been analyzed as a temporal condition in which there is a harmonious or inharmonious conjunction of people and events in time. In this article, the construction of houses by high-caste people living in a hamlet in Nepal is used to argue for a reconceptualization of auspiciousness and inauspiciousness as practices of emplacement in space and time. The analysis demonstrates how the rituals associated with the various stages of construction ensure the new house's compatibility with its spatial milieu—the soil, the site, the cardinal directions, and the reigning deities, as well as the vital force of the earth. Together with the auspicious timing of each stage of construction and its associated ritual with the owner's horoscope, the result of the building process shows auspiciousness to be a harmonious conjunction of person, place, and time.

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Lauri Siitonen

English abstract: There is a possible conflict between two current policy guidelines in post-conflict countries, human security, and state rebuilding. This article analyzes how weak statehood and low human security are mutually interlinked in complex ways in the case of post-conflict Nepal. The analysis is based on economic, political, and social data, recent reports by international organizations and NGOs, as well as on statements by major politicians and political parties. A dilemma can be identified in post-conflict Nepal: in order to remedy weak statehood and decrease the level of crime, the presence of the state in the rural areas needs to be enhanced. Yet people feel mistrust toward the police and state administration, which keep many people marginalized. Therefore external actors, particularly the EU, should strengthen their support for democratization of the state while at the same time keeping an eye on the peace process.

Spanish abstract: Existe un posible conflicto entre dos orientaciones de las políticas actuales en los países post-conflicto: la seguridad humana y la reconstrucción del Estado. Este artículo analiza cómo la debilidad estatal y la seguridad humana están mutuamente relacionadas entre sí de manera compleja en el caso del post-conflicto en Nepal. El análisis se basa en los datos económicos, políticos y sociales, en los últimos informes de las organizaciones internacionales y no-gubernamentales, así como en las declaraciones de los más importantes políticos y partidos políticos. Es posible identificar un dilema en el Nepal post-conflicto: con el fin de fortalecer al Estado débil y disminuir el nivel de la criminalidad, es preciso mejorar la presencia del Estado en las zonas rurales. Sin embargo, la gente siente desconfianza hacia la policía y la administración estatal, que mantienen a un gran número de personas en la marginalidad. Por lo tanto los actores externos, especialmente la UE, deben fortalecer su apoyo a la democratización del Estado a la vez que deben estar atentos al proceso de paz.

French abstract: Il existe une possibilité de conflit entre les deux actuelles lignes directrices en matière de politiques dans les pays en sortie de guerre, à savoir entre la sécurité humaine et la reconstruction de l'État. Cet article analyse comment un état défaillant et une faible sécurité humaine sont reliés mutuellement de façon complexe dans le contexte d'après-guerre au Népal. L'analyse est basée sur des données économiques, politiques et sociales, des rapports récents d'organisations internationales et d'ONG, ainsi que sur les discours des plus importants politiciens et partis politiques. Un dilemme apparaît dans le cas du Népal : afin de renforcer le pouvoir de l'État et de diminuer les taux de criminalité, la présence de l'État doit être accrue dans les milieux ruraux. Or, la population montre une certaine méfiance envers la police et l'administration publique, instances considérées comme responsables de la marginalisation d'une grande partie de la société. C'est pourquoi des acteurs externes, telle l'Union Européenne, devraient renforcer leur aide à la démocratisation de l'État et surveiller en même temps le processus de paix.

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The goddess Kumari at the Supreme Court

Divine kinship and secularism in Nepal

Chiara Letizia

In 2005 a human rights petition at the Supreme Court challenged the tradition of living goddesses called Kumaris and, in particular, that of the former royal Kumari, who lives a sequestered ritual life until puberty, and who used to bless and legitimate the king once a year. The case went on while Nepal overthrew its king and was declared a secular state in 2007. When the judgment was pronounced in 2008, the goddess was still at her post and now blessed the president. This court case is taken to illustrate the directions and form that Nepali secularism is taking. It reveals a distinctive form of secularism where the state is involved in supporting and reforming religion. The religious tradition here is seen as an asset for the state, worthy of preserving, provided it makes way for social reforms in tune with the times. Despite being reduced in court to a child capable of being deprived of her rights, the political power of the goddess remains intact and her role for the nation is recognized in the verdict; both human and divine, the Kumari has been acknowledged under the now secular legal regime.

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Developing a culture of marginality

Nepal's current classificatory moment

Sara Shneiderman

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.

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Karen Valentin

An explicit marketisation and national profiling of Denmark as an attractive country for foreign students has resulted in an increasing number of students from poor countries in the global South, including Nepal, being admitted to Danish colleges and universities. The influx of students from these countries has led to several accusations against them of using enrolment in educational institutions primarily as an entrance point to the Danish labour market. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among Nepalese students in Denmark this article addresses the intersection of internationalisation of higher education and immigration policy in a Europe with tightened immigration rules for certain nationalities.

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Alpa Shah and Sara Shneiderman

This is the introduction to a special section of Focaal that includes seven articles on the anthropology of affirmative action in South Asia. The section promotes the sustained, critical ethnographic analysis of affirmative action measures adopted to combat historical inequalities around the world. Turning our attention to the social field of affirmative action opens up new fronts in the anthropological effort to understand the state by carefully engaging the relationship between the formation and effects of policies for differentiated citizenship. We explore this relationship in the historical and contemporary context of South Asia, notably India and Nepal. We argue that affirmative action policies always transform society, but not always as expected. The relationship between political and socioeconomic inequality can be contradictory. Socioeconomic inequalities may persist or be refigured in new terms, as policies of affirmative action and their experiential effects are intimately linked to broader processes of economic liberalization and political transformation.

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Work after precarity

Anthropologies of labor and wageless life

Rebecca Prentice

politics of garment manufacturing during the Maoist Revolution in Nepal . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Over the past ten years, the study of labor subjectivities, working conditions, and everyday economic life has been framed by the language of

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Can a financial bubble burst if no one hears the pop?

Transparency, debt, and the control of price in the Kathmandu land market

Andrew Haxby

in terms of the market’s current structure and in terms of Nepal’s history of land tenure. This article is based on two years of fieldwork conducted from 2012 to 2016. During this time, I conducted more than 50 interviews with officials at commercial

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Regime Collapse and Revolution

A Response to John Dunn

Hugo Slim

today. In Asia, the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN)—usually known simply as “the Maoists”—were innately revolutionary, especially through their armed wing: the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The CPN and PLA launched a revolutionary insurgency in 1996