Social Science Baha

Keynote Address

The Annual Kathmandu Conference on Nepal and The Himalaya

 organised by Social Science Baha, the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies & 

Britain-Nepal Academic Council

Keynote Address

Rajendra Pradhan 
Hegemonic Gender (In)egalitarianism, Multiple Patriarchies, and Exclusion: Gender Relations among Indigenous-nationalities in Nepal

2 pm • 25 July, 2014 (Friday) • Hotel Shanker (Kailash Hall), Lazimpat

This is a public session in which admission is free and open to all on a first-come-first-served basis.

It is widely believed by many Nepalis as well as Nepali and foreign scholars, e.g. Joanna Watkins (1996) and Kathryn March (2002), that the indigenous-nationalities (adivasi-janajatis) are more egalitarian, including in their gender relations, than other communities, especially the notoriously hierarchical and inegalitarian Hindus. It is thus possible to speak of hegemonic inegalitarianism and hegemonic egalitarianism among these different communities. At the same time, however, anthropologists have demonstrated a wide variety of gender relations and patriarchy among the indigenous-nationalities and that these relations have changed over the past two centuries due to international, national as well as local causes. Following Seira Tamang, it is therefore more accurate to characterize these diverse communities not in terms of single patriarchy but multiple and changing patriarchies. From a different register, it could be argued that there are different forms of inclusion and exclusion of women in these communities.

This presentation explores the nature of gender relations among some selected indigenous-nationalities, based on published sources and on-going research, to question the common perception of gender egalitarianism among adivasi-janajatis. By way of contrast, it will also discuss gender relations among Brahmins. More specifically, it will attempt to address the issue of hegemonic gender egalitarianism and inegalitarianism by examining gender relations in different domains or spheres such as politics, economy and religion on the one hand and marriage, love, sex and control over the body on the other. The presentation will also discuss the different forms of gender exclusion and inclusion and the degree of agency and autonomy of women in these different domains or spheres. Finally, it will locate gender relations among these communities within the wider local, national and international as well as historical context.

The presentation will argue that while in general it could be said that most indigenous-nationalities are more egalitarian than Hindus, especially in their gender relations, and that women do have more agency and autonomy, different forms of gender inequality and exclusions of women among these communities can nevertheless be discerned. This is especially so when gender relations in the spheres of politics, religion and, to some extent, economy are examined. It will also argue that we need to pay attention to the intersection of gender with ethnicity/caste as well as class and other vectors such geographical location and generation while discussing gender relations. The presentation will emphasize that we must not assume that gender relations among the adivasi-janajatis as well as Hindus have remained the same throughout history but that they have changed over time in response to local, national and international forces.

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Rajendra Pradhan is currently the Dean of Nepā School of Social Sciences and Humanities (since 2009), and he was the Chair of Social Science Baha from January 2002 to June 2010. He received his PhD from the Department of Sociology, University of Delhi. A researcher with varied research interests, he has conducted research on several topics, including religion among Hindu Newars of Kathmandu, care of the elderly in a Dutch village, and food habits of Tarai inhabitants. He then spent more than a decade and a half using the legal anthropological perspective to study water and land rights in Nepal as well as looking at social and cultural diversity and its impact on social exclusion; access to political, social, economic resources; and law. He is currently working on constructions of Nepali women in law, court cases, and print media, as well as on local understanding of human rights and violence against women.

 In addition to his duties as the dean, Dr Pradhan supervises many junior researchers. He has also served as research consultant to various organisations, including the International Water Management Institute, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. He had conducted several research workshops and training sessions for Nepali and international participants on topics such as legal pluralism, ethnography and water rights.

He has published numerous articles and edited several books including, ‘Legal Pluralism in Post-Conflict Environments: Problem or Opportunity for Natural Resource Management?’ (with Ruth Meinzen-Dick) in the edited volume, Governance, Natural Resources, and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding (in press);  ‘Legal Pluralism in the Supreme Court: Law,  Religion, and Culture Pertaining to Women’s Rights in Nepal’ in the edited volume, Religion in Disputes: Pervasiveness of Religious Normative Disputing Processes (2013)‘Analyzing Water Rights, Multiple Uses and Intersectoral Water Transfers’ (with Ruth Meinzen-Dick) in the edited volume, Liquid Relations: Contested Water Rights and Legal Complexity (2005); Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law in Social, Economic and Political Development (2003);Law, History and Culture of Water in Nepal (2003); Water, Land and Law: Changing Rights to Land and Water in Nepal (2000), and Water Rights, Conflict and Policy (1997).

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