From an anthropological perspective, (educational) ethnography is much more than just a method in terms of a set of techniques but a way of taking a place in and grasping the world that ethnographers aim to represent and comprehend. With an imperative of “being there,” the ethnographer travels to specific locations to establish some form of physical presence in the field site. The idea of “location,” therefore, is central to educational ethnography in several ways. Research on education among different categories of people in Nepal, and a vast body of ethnographic literature on education around the world, demonstrates the centrality of “location” in anthropological knowledge production. This article discusses “location” as a conceptual category in order to explore the different analytical levels at which it operates in anthropological knowledge production on education. It does so in three different ways. First, ethnographers’ locations in the field—their biographical trajectories, academic backgrounds, and social positions—lay the ground for the ways in which ethnographers ‘see’ education in the field. Second, the historical context and sociopolitical developments of specific geographic locations, in this case Nepal, draw attention to ways in which existing societal concerns foster particular research interests on education and consequently shape knowledge about a given geographical location. Third, conducting ethnographic fieldwork in a variety of spatial sites within and beyond institutions of schooling allows ethnographers to explore the multiple and often conflicting meanings of education. This awareness on the multiplicity of ethnographic locations in educational ethnography promises to deepen our understanding of education, broadly defined, through a rigorous and highly contextualized inquiry that highlights multiple and contested voices and presents subjective modes of perceiving reality.
Uma Pradhan and Karen Valentin
Natural hazards in Nepal have traditionally been managed on an ad hoc basis as and when they occur, with individuals and communities largely responsible for their own risk management. More recently, however, there has been a shift from response to disaster preparedness and risk reduction, in line with the United Nations Hyogo Framework for Action and the more recent Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Like many developing countries, Nepal has received significant financial and technical support to implement DRR programs from the national to the community levels. While this has provided a much-needed incentive for action in this post-conflict, transitional state, it has also created a complex governance landscape involving a multitude of government and non-government stakeholders. Heavily influenced by the neoliberal development agenda, and in the absence of an up-to-date disaster management act, DRR programs focused largely on institution-building and technical interventions, for example, the establishment of disaster management committees, the retrofitting of schools and hospitals, and the development of flood early warning systems. Such interventions are highly technocratic and have been critiqued for failing to address the root causes of disasters, in particular, the systemic poverty, social inequality and marginalization that characterizes Nepal. Nepal is also undergoing a complex political transition, which has seen the ratification of a new constitution, federal restructuring, and local elections for the first time in 20 years, as well as the passing of the new Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act 2017. There is much scope for optimism but successful risk reduction moving forward will require commitment and action at all levels of the governance hierarchy, and a wider commitment to address the social injustice that continues to prevail.
Within the study of the modern period of Nepali history, history is considered here both as a narrative with its internal logic, notably the periodization of history produced by Nepali historians, as well as a series of statements, events, regulations, etc., which are incorporated in this narrative. Periodization of history in Nepal establishes a direct and necessary link between modern Nepal and its national territory. Indeed, the beginning of the modern era is determined by the “unification” of the fifty independent kingdoms and tribal territories that gave birth to the anational territory of Nepal during the second half of the 18th century. Such a correspondence makes modernity and the unified territory of Nepal coincide in a single space time. Yet, a closer examination of the logic behind periodization sheds light on its Kathmandu-centric, and dynastic perspective. This resulted in the formation of a hybrid conception of the national territory and of its center of power. From being the standard of the territory’s time and space, the Kathmandu Valley became the chronotope of the historical narrative dealing with the first half of the 19th century. It continued to form the territory’s remarkable center following the seizing of power by the Rana prime ministers (1846–1951), but now by assuming a futurist dimension, which conversely, plunged the rest of the country back in time.
Bishnu Raj Upreti
Historically, the military in Nepal was closely associated with and loyal to the institution of the monarchy and was intended to operate in the interests of the palace. However, the military was forced to confront political change in 1990 as the power of the king beyond that of the constitution was scrapped and Nepal was limited to a constitutional monarchy. Consequently, the military theoretically came under civilian control with the advent of the end of a partyless political system and the establishment of a multiparty democracy. The palace reluctantly accepted this change but covertly continued consolidating power by using the military. Hence, the already cemented mistrust between political parties and the military mounted. Political parties viewed the military as a royal army and the military perceived political parties as unpatriotic and aligned with foreign powers. This hidden tension remained and was reflected in many instances until the abolition of the institution of the monarchy in May 2008 by the Nepali parliament. From 1990 to 2010, the military endured very difficult periods such as continuous combat (February 1996–November 2006) with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)], the royal massacre (the entire family of King Birendra was assassinated), sharp criticisms of its armed conflict related to human rights violations, a cessation of military support from the international community, the abolition of the monarchy, which had existed in Nepal for 240 years, confinement along with CPN(M) ex-combatants per the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), tensions with the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), attempts by the CPN(M) government to politicize the military, and the removal of the military chief. In all these events, the military was indirectly and directly dragged in political maneuvering. In some cases, it fully dragged while in others only partially so, and in some cases, it failed entirely. Further, in the past three decades, from 1990 to 2020, the military has been sharply criticized for engagements in business beyond its traditional military role and for not respecting civilian supremacy. However, the military has also been highly praised for its acceptance of the republican system. All Nepali citizens have praised the military’s natural disaster relief work during floods, earthquakes, avalanches, fires, landslides, air and other transportation disasters, its search and rescue operations, medical assistance and evacuation efforts, air rescues and mass evacuations, flood control, reconstruction of damaged vital infrastructures, and construction of temporary shelters for homeless citizens. It is clear that the Ministry of Defense and the military require further security sector reforms and better civil–military relations as well as ensuring parliamentary oversight in the spirit of the National Security Policy and Nepal’s constitution.
Erberto Lo Bue
Tibetan Buddhists view images primarily as religious supports and secondarily as works of art. Buddhist images are aimed at improving one’s karma by earning merit in view of future existences, at removing obstacles, and at creating wellbeing. Their commissioning may be occasioned by various circumstances, including illness and death, besides the need for a specific religious practice. Since they are primarily expressions of faith, their age has a limited importance and their originality hardly any: a religious image is valued less for its rarity and aesthetic value than for its apotropaic virtues and for its particular connection with a holy place or master. Hence the application of Western post-Medieval aesthetic criteria to the appreciation of Tibetan art ought to be complemented by an appreciation of the specific religious meaning of an image, the interpretation of its particular symbolism, and the aim of its client within the specific cultural and historical context in which it was produced. This article is preceded by a historical introduction sketching the development of Buddhist art and architecture in Tibet from the 7th to the present century, mentioning the role played by foreign artists, mostly Newars from the Nepal Valley, and dwelling on particularly significant monuments, such as the monastery of Sàmye (8th century) and the Great Stupa of Gyantsé (15th century), representing the two highest moments in the history of Tibetan religious art and architecture, the Pòtala being basically a fortified palace. The first section, on Tibetan Buddhist art, deals with iconography and iconometry as well as materials and techniques, contrasting the prevalent approach to the subject by collectors, and even art historians, with that of Buddhist masters and devotees, pointing out the importance of the consecration of images, without which the latter remain worthless from a religious point of view. The second section, on Tibetan Buddhist architecture, deals with the construction of religious buildings, their materials, their religious functions and their symbolism. Although stupas are referred to throughout the article, they are dealt especially in this section. Sanskrit terms, whether in phonetic transcription or in transliteration, prevail in the first section because the relevant terminology is largely the Tibetan translation of Indian Buddhist terms, Tibetan terms in phonetic transcription and transliteration prevail in the second section, except in the part dealing with the stupa.
Rina Verma Williams and Sayam Moktan
With over one billion adherents worldwide and 15% of the world’s population, Hinduism is the fourth largest, and among the oldest, of the major world religions, with important political aspects that reverberate well beyond South Asia. Yet it is perhaps the least studied of the major world religions. Hinduism is also one of the most geographically concentrated religions of the world. The majority of Hindus are concentrated in two South Asian countries, Nepal and India, where Hindus constitute 80% or more of the population. Small but politically influential diasporic communities of Hindus are found throughout Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, the United States, and Canada. Key characteristics of Hinduism that set it apart from Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), especially politically, include its polytheistic nature and lack of one single authoritative text; the tremendous variation in its practice across locality and caste; and its frequently informal practice beyond the confines of official institutions such as temples. Hinduism has been compatible with a range of regime types over time in India and Nepal, including empire, monarchy, and democracy. Both India and Nepal are officially secular countries, but the status of secularism in both countries is contested by the forces of Hindu nationalism, a movement that seeks to institutionalize the political, social, and cultural predominance of Hinduism. Religious conversion is expressly prohibited in Nepal; in India, it is increasingly under legislative attack. The politics of caste are an important political aspect of Hinduism in both India and Nepal. While politics in both countries remain dominated by upper castes, important lower-caste political mobilization has appeared in India, but has yet to take hold in Nepal. A better understanding of Hinduism’s political aspects has enormous potential to enhance knowledge of religion and politics more broadly.