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SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Public Culture in Contemporary Nepal

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Term 1

This module will introduce undergraduate students to debates of political change and public culture in Nepal. With a focus on public culture this course is able to engage with contemporary issues as they arise in a rapidly changing post-conflict, post- disaster Nepal.

 It is intended to complement modules in Nepali language and to provide students with a context for their more advanced study of language and literature. 

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This module is designed to deepen the understanding of South Asia through introducing public culture debates as a critical commentary to contemporary issues of identity politics and political transformation.

  • A critical understanding of texts and the ability to situate source material in social, political and cultural contexts,
  • An advanced understanding of ways in which public culture impacts political decision  making
  • An understanding of issues related to knowledge production and manipulation.
  • An advanced knowledge of key texts and debates within Nepal studies
  • The ability to develop research, verbal and written expression as part of transferable skills across academic disciplines


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week

Scope and syllabus

  • Introduction to History and Society in Nepal
  • Religion and Caste in Secular Nepal
  • Ethnic Politics and Federalism
  • Practicing Identity
  • Censorship and Rumour
  • Disaster Politics
  • Heritage and Memory
  • Civil war and transitional justice
  • Documentaries, Film and Theatre
  • British Nepali Lives
  • Short Stories and Gender

Method of assessment

  • One essay (1500 words) to be submitted on day 5, week 6, term 2 (50%)
  • One essay (1500 words) to be submitted on day 5, week 1, term 3 (50%)

Suggested reading

  • Onta, Pratyoush and Seira Tamang 2014. Nepal. In Arjun Guneratne and Anita M. Weiss. Pathways to Power. The Domestic Politics of South Asia. pp283-344
  • Bell, Thomas 2014 Kathmandu. Random House India
  • Thapa, Deepak (ed). Understanding the Maoist Movement of Nepal. Kathmandu: Martin Chautari, 2003.  ISBN 99933-782-7-5.
  • Whelpton, John.A History of Nepal.Cambridge: CUP. 2005.

Additional Reading:

Introduction to History and Society in Nepal

  • Stiller, Ludwig 1968. Prithvi Narayan Shah in the Light of Dibya Upadesh. Kathmandu
  • Onta, Pratyoush 1996. 'Ambivalence Denied: the Making of Rastriya Itihas in Panchayat Era Textbooks' Contributions to Nepalese Studies 23: 1, pp. 213-254.
  • Hoftun, Martin and William Raeper 1992. Spring Awakening: An Account of the 1990 Revolution in Nepal. New Delhi: Vi

Religion and Caste in Secular Nepal

  • Sharma, Prayag Raj 2004. 'Introduction to The Caste Hierarchy and the State in Nepal' in Prayag Raj Sharma, The State and Society in Nepal, pp. 151-166. Lalitpur: Himal Books
  • Höfer, Andras 1979. The Caste Hierarchy and the State in Nepal. Innsbruck: Universitatsverlag Wagner.
  • Michaels, Axel 1997. 'The King and the Cow: On a Crucial Symbol of Hinduization in Nepal' in Nationalism and Ethnicity in a Himalayan Kingdom David Gellner et al. (eds.), pp. 79-99.

Ethnic Politics and Federalism

  • Malagodi, Mara 2013 Constitutional Nationalism and Legal Exclusion: Equality, Identity Politics and Democray in Nepal 1990-2007 (ebook via soas library or hard copy for example chapter 4)
  • Burghart, Richard, 'The Formation of the Concept of Nation-State in Nepal' Journal of Asian

Practicing Identity

  • Onta, Pratyoush 2006.'The growth of the adivasi janajati movement in Nepal after 1990: the non-political institutional agents' Studies in Nepali History and Society 11(2): 303-54.
  • Sijapati, Bandita 2013 In pursuit of recognition: Regionalism, Madhesi identity and the Madhes Andolan. In Mahendra Lawoti and Susan Hangen Nationalism and Ethnic Confict in Nepal: Identities and Mobilization after 1990.
  • Guneratne, Arjun 1998. 'Modernization, the state and the construction of a Tharu identity in Nepal' Journal of Asian Studies 57(3): 749-73.

Censorship and Rumour

  • Hutt , Michael. 2006. 'Things that should not be said: censorship and self-censorship in the Nepali press media, 2001-2' The Journal of Asian Studies, 65.2, pp. 361-92. (see below)
  • Lecompte-Tilouine, Marie 2017 The Royal Massacre, Rumours and the Print Media in Nepal. In Hutt and Onta. Political Change and Public Culture in Post 1990 Nepal. (ebook at Soas library)
  • Chalmers, Rhoderick. 'Pandits and pulp fiction:popular publishing and the birth of Nepali print-capitalism in Banaras' in Studies in Nepali History and Society 7: 1 (June 2002): 35-97

Disaster Politics

  • Raj, Yogesh and Bhaskar Gautam. 2015. Courage in Chaos: Early Rescue and Relief after the April Earthquake. Kathmandu: Martin Chautari.
  • Bennike, Rune Bolding 2017 Aftershock: Reflections on the Politics of Reconstruction in Northern Gorkha
  • In Himalaya, the Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies
  • March, Kathryn S. 2015. My Village in Nepal is Gone. Cornell Chronicle: Ithaca, NY. April 30, 2015.
  • Nelson, Andrew. 2015. Classquake: What the Global Media Missed in Nepal Earthquake Coverage. The Conversation, May 4, 2015. < what-the-global-media-missed-in-nepal-earthquake- coverage-41063> (accessed on November 30, 2016).
  • Schuller, Mark. 2014. Being an Insider Without: Activist Anthropological Engagement in Haiti after the Earthquake. American Anthropologist 116 (2): 409-412.

Heritage and Memory

  • Niels Gutschow 2017 Architectural Heritage Conservation in South and East Asia and in Europe: Contemporary Practices. You may read the entire article p1-73 o In Katharina Weiler and Niels Gutschow Authenticity in Architectural Heritage Conservation: Discourses, Opinions, Experiences in Europe, South and East Asia. (see below or get to the book via the library ebook)\
  • Gordillo, Gaston. 2014. Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • ICOMOS Post Earthquake Reconstruction of Cultural Heritage in Nepal. Compiled and edited by Kai Weise 2016 (see below)
  • Hutt, Michael 2012.'Singing the new Nepal'. Nations and Nationalism 18(2): 306-25.
  • Stirr, Anna. 2010. 'Singing Dialogic Space Into Being: Communist Language and Democratic Hopes at a Dohori Competition on Radio Nepal.” Studies in Nepali History and Society 15(2).

Civil war and transitional justice

  • Thapa, Deepak (ed). Understanding the Maoist Movement of Nepal. Kathmandu: Martin Chautari, 2003.  ISBN 99933-782-7-5.
  • Adhikari, Aditya 2010.  'The ideological evolution of the Nepali Maoists' Studies in Nepali History and Society 15(2): 217-52.
  • Hutt, Michael (2012) 'Reading Nepali Maoist Memoirs.' Studies in Nepali History and Society, 17 (1). pp. 107-142.
  • Lecomte-Tilouine, Marie 2009.Hindu Kingship, Ethnic Revival and Maoist Rebellion in Nepal.New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Ch. 3, 'The Enigmatic Pig' and Ch. 6, 'The Transgressive nature of Hindu Kingship in Nepal'.

Documentaries, Film and Theatre

  • Davis, Carol C. 2014 'Towards an Engaged Stage: Nepali Theatre in Uncertain Times'. In Ashis Sengupta (ed.) Mapping South Asia Through Contemporary Theatre. Essays on the Theatres of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.  177-208
  • Mottin, Monica 2007 Dramas for Social Change: Theatre for Development or the Development of the Theatre? Studies in Nepali History and Society 12(2): 321-347
  • Uprety, Sanjeev 2007 Nepali Modernities and Postmodernities: Theater, Culture and Politics. Studies in Nepali History and Society 12(2): 2

British Nepali Lives

Short Stories and Gender

  • Salik Shah's 'Lakhen and Dragonflies' written in 2016 led us into an alternative reality - Nepal under Indian occupation!
  • Rabi Thapa's story 'The Nepali Maid' (see readings) provoked us to think through concepts of gender, caste and migration and wonder how these concepts have changed over time.
  • Seira Tamang 2009 The politics of conflict anddifference or the difference of conflict in politics: the women's movement in Nepal. Feminist Review. 0141-7789/09 


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules