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Organizer and Chair: William F. Fisher, Harvard University
Discussants: David Gellner, Brunel University; Susan Hangen, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Karl-Heinz Kramer, University of Heidelburg; Lauren Leve, Princeton University; Kathryn March, Cornell University; Mukta Singh Tamang, Cornell University
In the wake of the 1990 "restoration"of democracy, ethnic activism has become a prominent and, for some, an alarming part of Nepals political arena. The "janajati" movement is composed of a mosaic of social organizations and political parties dominated by groups of peoples who have historically spoken Tibeto-Burman languages. This movement has reshaped political discourse in Nepal by persistently challenging the previously accepted dominant view of national culture, religion, and language, and by presenting a potentially revolutionary vision of Nepal as a multicultural, multilinguistic, and multireligious nation. This conflict pits anger and resentment about the two-hundred-year-history of economic, political, and cultural dominance of Nepal by high-caste hill Hindus against fears that Nepal is on the verge of violent disintegration that would make it another Sri Lanka or Yugoslavia.
This roundtable brings together scholars who have conducted extensive research on different dimensions of the janajati movement to share their perspectives, explore the divergent and sometimes contradictory modes of activism in the janajati movement, and to discuss the changes that are occurring as new organizations emerge, actors reposition themselves, and new issues arise. The roundtable has two goals: first and most immediately, to explore in some depth the complex and changing nature of relationships among various actors, social organizations, political parties, and local populations involved in and affected by the janajati movement in Nepal; and secondly, to seek a framework for analyzing this and similar movements in South and Southeast Asia.