Considerations across Time and Spa ce” summary
Lectures and Presentations
(Special lectures, talks and presentations are normally organised only for the students and faculty unless when stated otherwise.)
Research in Far Western Nepal"
29 October Mahendra Lawoti on "Dynamics of Mobilization: Understanding Varied Movement Trajectories of
Dalit, Indigenous and Madhesi Groups"
5 October Research p re sentation by graduate students from Bielefeld University, Germany
14 September Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka on “The Language of E thnicity in Nepal’s Political Communication”
23 June Chaitanya Mishra on “The Discovery of t he Social”
11 June Geoff Childs on “What Distinguishes Cultural Anth ropology from Other Social Sciences?”
17 December, Friday
In his lecture on “Newar Theatrical and Ritual Performances in the Light of Performance Studies”, Prof. Toffin focussed on the Indra Jatra festival of Kathmandu city. He discussed the historical and socio-cultural background of the festival and its present situation in post-monarchy Nepal. He also focused on the theatrical aspects of the festival and the displayed dimension of the rituals performed. The eight-day series of ceremonies carried out during the festival can be viewed not only as a celebration of gods, but also as a show, a play enacted for those who are watching. This lecture is based on Prof. Gérard Toffin's recently published book on the same topic (Paris 2010). He is at present extending this project and is also working on theatrical performances of the Kathmandu Valley, which play a very important role in Newar culture. Even in their most religious forms, these dramatic representations involve a great deal of aesthetics, theatricality, entertainment and play. In all these matters, performance studies, very influential in the US, has proved to be an inspiring source of ideas, even if some of the assertions need to be debated. The principles on which performance studies are based underline in particular the processes that make ritual so theatre-like, especially in its more spectacular ceremonies. (modified from abstract)
Gérard Toffin, anthropologist, is Director of Research, CNRS, Paris. He started researching in Nepal, mainly on the Newars of Kathmandu Valley, and on Indian studies, in the early nineteen seventies. Besides working on Newar religion and theatrical performances, he is currently researching the Krishna Pranami sect and various aspects of political changes in Nepal. His latest book, La Fete-Spectacle (2010), deals with the Indra Jatra festival of Kathmandu.
24 November, Wednesday
In her lecture on “Why Gender and Caste Matter: Theory and Method in Anthropological Research in Far Western Nepal”, Prof. Mary M. Cameron discussed the theoretical and methodological components of her award-winning book, On the Edge of the Auspicious: Gender and Caste in Nepal. The book is based on her post-doctoral research on a predominantly Hindu village in Bajang District, where she lived and worked as a Peace Corp volunteer in 1978. Although trained as a medical anthropologist and employed as a mathematics teacher in the village, she became increasingly interested in what appeared to be the paradoxical position of low-caste women there. On the one hand, the low castes were considered ‘untouchables’, relegated to the periphery of society and dependent on unequal patron-client relationships with the high castes. On the other hand, the women enjoyed tremendous economic, social and cultural autonomy in their every day lives, which was in stark contrast to the situation of their high-caste counterparts. She found that there existed little research on the intersection between gender and caste amongst low-castes in Nepal, and what she observed in Bajang could not be explained by literature from India. It had also not attracted detailed ethnographic research. Consequently, her research explored the paradox through an analysis of the symbolic and material dimensions of gender and caste hierarchies and the intersection and interaction between the two amidst the changing economic landscape of far-western Nepal. (modified from abstract)
Mary M. Cameron is Professor of Anthropology at Florida Atlantic University, USA. She is the author of the award-winning On the Edge of the Auspicious: Gender and Caste in Rural Nepal (University of Illinois Press, 1998, and Mandala Books, Kathmandu, 2005) and Three Fruits: Ayurvedic Doctors on Health, Nature and Social Change in Nepal (upcoming).
29 October, Friday
In his presentation on “Dynamics of Mobilization: Understanding Varied Movement Trajectories of Dalit, Indigenous and Madhesi Groups”, Prof. Mahendra Lawoti demonstrated how certain factors have been more influential than others in determining the success of the political movements of Nepali ethnic, caste and regional minorities. Variables like language, religion, intra-group diversity have played less significant roles than territoriality and the past mobilization history of the groups. Similarly, memories of past traditions of self-governance and the formation of ethnic political parties – as opposed to cultural, advocacy or non-governmental organizations –have also contributed significantly to increased political success. These factors, in addition to a more or less complete non-cooptation by the state in the past, have contributed to the Madhesis' being the most successfully mobilised group in the recent political history of Nepal.
Mahendra Lawoti is Associate Professor of Political Science at Western Michigan University, USA. He has written numerous books and articles on political processes and institutions in Nepal. He is the immediate past President of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies (ANHS) based in the United States.
Students from the Transnationalisation and Development Research Centre of the Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Germany, gave a presentation on the findings of their fieldwork conducted in Nepal as part of their MA requirement. Each presenter spoke for about 15 minutes and then answered questions from the audience.
Road Development in the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal”
2) Arne Michels: “Who is Representing Whom - Glocal Activism and Scattered Discourses on Melamchi
Water Supply Project”
3) Jonas Jungbluth: “Community Rights and Forest Management Regimes in Rural Areas of Nepal”
Dr. Sara Shneiderman gave a presentation on her article “Are the Central Himalayas in Zomia? Some Scholarly and Political Considerations across Time and Space”, which had been published in the 2010 issue of Journal of Global History. She discussed the appropriateness of including the Himalayan region in the conceptual geographical area of ‘Zomia’, a fictional demarcation conceptualized by van Schendel and redefined by Scott for studying marginalized peoples and communities in frontier regions across Central and South-east Asia.
Dr. Sara Shneiderman is currently a research fellow at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge University, and will be joining Yale University as Assistant Professor of South Asian Anthropology in 2011. She continues to study various aspects of Thangmi society and identity on which she also wrote her doctoral thesis. She is also interested in the broader themes of affirmative action, ethnicity, migration, and the state in South Asia.
14 September, Tuesday
Prof. Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka gave a lecture on “The Language of Ethnicity in Nepal’s Political Communication”.
Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka is Professor of Social Anthropology at the Faculty of Sociology at Bielefeld University, Germany. She was the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the same university from 2007 to 2009. Prof. Pfaff-Czarnecka is also a member of the academic advisory board of Nepā School.
23 June, Wednesday
Prof. Chaitanya Mishra spoke on “The Discovery of the Social”. Prof. Mishra’s lecture was divided into three parts. The first section was interactive and tried to show that the social could be discovered everywhere and that there was nothing that had no social built into it. The second section linked up social struggle and social transition to the discovery of sociology. The third section argued that social change was foundational to political transition and that the recent political transition in Nepal was built on the platform of the specific nature of social changes Nepal had been undergoing for several decades. (modified from abstract)
Chaitanya Mishra is Professor of Sociology at the Central Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu.
11 June, Friday
Prof. Geoff Childs gave a talk on “What Distinguishes Cultural Anthropology from Other Social Sciences?” He discussed similarities and differences between anthropology and other social sciences. The lecture centered on differences in approach, scale, focus and methods. He concluded with an open discussion with students on the advantages that the anthropological perspective provides for those who want to actively engage issues of social and economic development. (modified from abstract)