Social Science Baha

Public Presentations

Annual Kathmandu Conference on Nepal and the Himalaya 2013
  Social Science Baha, the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies & Britain-Nepal Academic Council

Keynote Presentations
5 – 6:30 pm24 and 25 July, 2013 • Hotel Shanker (Kailash Hall), Lazimpat

24 July

Michael Hutt – ‘Five Nepali Novels’
25 July
Mahendra Lawoti – ‘Democracy in Trouble? Political Elite’s Attitude and Behaviour and Regime Stability in Nepal’
Panel Discussion
2:30 – 4:30 pm • 26 July, 2013 • Hotel Shanker (Kailash Hall), Lazimpat

Pitamber Sharma‘Strategic Plan for the Proposed Social Science Research Council in Nepal’

Comments by Kathryn S. March and Pratyoush Onta

These are public sessions in which admission is free and open to all on a first-come-first-served basis.

Michael Hutt
Five Nepali Novels
5 – 6:30 pm • 24 July, 2013 • Hotel Shanker (Kailash Hall), Lazimpat

In his seminal book Literature, Popular Culture and Society, Leo Lowenthal argues that studies of the representation of society, state, or economy in the literature of a particular country or time contribute to our knowledge of ‘the kind of perception which a specific social group—writers—has of specific social phenomena’ and therefore to our knowledge of the ‘history and sociology of shared consciousness’ (1961: 143). This discussion will focus on five Nepali novels published between 2005 and 2010, i.e. during the final months of the internal conflict between the CPN (Maoist) and the monarchical state, and the period of political transition that followed. The novels were selected mainly because they have been widely read and discussed, at least in Kathmandu, and can therefore be seen as possessing sociological as well as purely literary significance. Three of them (Narayan Wagle’s Palpasa Café, Narayan Dhakal’s Pretakalpa, and Krishna Dharabasi’s Radha) won one or other of the two major Nepali literary prizes awarded each year, and the other two (Yug Pathak’s Urgenko Ghoda and Buddhisagar Chapagain’s Karnali Blues) have achieved a high public profile.
The paper will summarise the content of these novels and provide some translated extracts.  It will then analyse and discuss them, with a particular focus on (a) Dhakal’s, Dharabasi’s, and Pathak’s use of the past (b) the influence of the Maoist insurgency and the imprint of Maoist ideology (c) the location of each novel’s central protagonist in relation to urban metropolitan perspectives and (d) implied and actual readerships. The paper will explore the sociological significance of the commercial success of several of these books in light of the increasingly close relationship between Nepali literature and the Nepali print media. Finally, it will ask whether the expansion of the readership for Nepali novels in recent years is a sign that the Nepali novel is now breaking out of the narrow elite sphere of ‘art literature’ and becoming a part of what Ashish Nandy calls ‘the popular’.

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Michael Hutt is Professor of Nepali and Himalayan Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, where he has taught for more than 20 years. He is a renowned expert on the modern literature and culture of Nepal and the Nepali diaspora, and has written the definitive English translations of many Nepali texts. A regular visitor to the Himalaya, he has also been engaged with the politics of the region, publishing books on Nepal’s civil war and the issue of Bhutanese refugees. His works include Himalayan Voices: an Introduction to Modern Nepali Literature (1991) and Himalayan People’s War: Nepal’s Maoist Rebellion (editor, 2004).

Mahendra Lawoti
Democracy in Trouble? Political Elite’s Attitude and Behaviour and Regime Stability in Nepal
5 – 6:30 pm • 25 July, 2013 • Hotel Shanker (Kailash Hall), Lazimpat

This paper investigates the attitudes of Nepali parliamentarians toward democratic values during Nepal’s second democratic interregnum (1990-2002). Was the elite attitude favourable for the consolidation of democracy in Nepal? Elites play significant roles in democratization of a country. Investigations of elite attitude becomes important when democracy does not consolidate, and even more so when the general public and scholars blame the elite for it. Empirical study of democratic values elite hold not only help us determine whether they are responsible for the lack of consolidation, but can identify variables that can be targeted for addressing the problems.

The study is based on structured interviews of 101 (out of 265) legislators in 2000. The random sample was stratified based on political party, ethnicity/caste, gender, and regions. The survey employed standard questionnaires used in many studies around the world with relevant modifications for sensitizing to the particular context of Nepali culture and politics.
The paper presents perceptions of regime legitimacy/support of political institutions and political tolerance to examine whether the Nepali parliamentarians supported the democratic regime and demonstrated democratic values (tolerance). The parliamentarians’ attitude toward different aspects of democracy demonstrates values that may be problematic for sustenance and/or consolidation of democracy.
The paper also identifies variables that are responsible for such attitudes. For instance, political ideology, religion, region, age, former profession, and years as a legislator have significant impact on political support/alienation. Likewise, gender and former professions have significant impact on tolerance. Interestingly, education does not have significant impact on both the dependent variables. Such analysis can identify areas and groups that need to be targeted for remedial policies for promoting democratic consolidation in the future.
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Mahendra Lawoti is Professor of Political Science at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo; and an Associate Fellow of the Asia Society. He studies democratization and ethnic politics in South Asia and has published nine books, including Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict in Nepal (2012) (co-edited with Susan I Hangen); The Maoist Insurgency in Nepal (2009); Contentious Politics and Democratization in Nepal (2007); and Towards a Democratic Nepal (2005). Additionally, he has also published numerous journal articles, book chapters, and opinion pieces. 

Pitamber Sharma
Strategic Plan for the Proposed Social Science Research Council in Nepal
2:30 – 4:30 pm • 26 July, 2013 • Hotel Shanker (Kailash Hall), Lazimpat

In 2012, a three-member team consisting of Pitamber Sharma, Bal Gopal Baidya and Dwarika Nath Dhungel was commissioned by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare to prepare a comprehensive strategic plan document of a Social Science Research Council (SSRC) in Nepal, which would serve as ‘an apex institution devoted to the promotion and support of quality research in the social sciences’. The team was mandated to prepare a situation analysis that would include: i) an overview of the policy, social and political context that identifies all the stakeholders, the state of art of social sciences in Nepal and concrete lessons or practices that needs to be mainstreamed; ii) a strategic plan consisting of an overview of the vision, mission, values, goals and objectives of the proposed SSRC; and iii) an institutional development plan. The report was completed in December 2012.

Pitamber Sharma, former Vice-Chair of the National Planning Commission and former Professor of Geography at Tribhuvan University, will make a presentation based on the findings of the study. Commenting on his presentation will be Kathryn S. March, Professor of Anthropology and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Asian Studies, Cornell University and Pratyoush Onta, Chairperson of Martin Chautari and Member, Social Science Baha, followed by a floor discussion. This discussion will be moderated by David Gellner, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Oxford.