Social Science Baha

Between Gathering and Politics: Diversity and Change of Oratorical Discourse in Byans, Far Western Nepal

Katsuo Nawa

This paper is an attempt to analyse the changing ways people of Nepali Byans articulate themselves in formal oratorical occasions from a linguistic anthropological perspective. Byans VDC lies in the northernmost part of Darchula District, Far Western Nepal, and main inhabitants there are people who call themselves ‘Rang’ in their language, most frequently called ‘Byansi’ in Nepali, and now officially listed as one of the indigenous nationalities in Nepal. Nowadays most of them live in the town of Darchula either seasonally or semi-permanently, where main audio-visual data for this paper were collected in 2010. There are some traditional occasions, notably in marriage ceremonies, in which several Rangs should give a short speech. This role is usually fulfilled by some elder males who are regarded as phaa tarta, i.e. one who speak strongly. Their speeches have their distinct style, logic and contents, based on a wide range of knowledge on their thumchaaruu (tradition). On the other hand, many Rang politicians and activists deliver speeches in Byansi as well as in Nepali. Frequently using many loan words from Nepali, Hindi, and English, their speeches in Byansi directly reflect the current sociopolitical discourse in the centre. Indeed, many of them often articulate their social and political claims in Nepali and in Byansi in identical manners. The problem with this type of speech lies in that it is barely intelligible to those who do not share the vocabulary and agenda beforehand. To make one’s speech in Byansi comprehensible, convincing and persuasive in changing Naya Nepal, one has to handle one’s way of speech in several levels, between the two prototypical styles of oration. In this paper, I show how this has been accomplished in various ways, based on several transcribed materials on various oratorical occasions.