Annotated Bibliography: Nepal

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Note: The reference sections lists Cherry Smith's Ph.D. dissertation from Indiana University in 1994: The Effects of Hypoxia and Nutrition on Pre-menopausal Sherpa Women Living at High and Low Altitude in Nepal.]
Keywords: Human Biology; Sherpa people; Development

Strickland, S.S. and V.R. Tuffrey (1997) Form and Function. A Study of Nutrition, Adaptation and Social Inequality in three Gurung Villages of the Nepal Himalayas. Smith-Gordon and Company Limited, London. This book provides great detail on intensive studies of the consequences in social terms of nutritional deprivation. It addresses questions of whether small body size may be adaptive in some circumstances, or whether larger body size (not necessarily very large, simply average or above for a particular population) translates into greater ability to do work (i.e., to earn a living), to marry and have children, and to achieve social success, however it is measured. Thus it examines work productivity as well as childhood growth, and looks at household coping strategies----its analysis is compatible with authors who are examining household economics as well as those studying nutrition, growth and health. This book and Barker's on maternal health and its consequences for offspring growth and health should perhaps be combined in order to better understand the implications of nutritional deprivation.

Keywords: Nutrition; Development; Family dynamics; Human biology in Nepal; Gurung people

Studies in Nepali History and Society (1996) Mandala Book Point, Kathmandu. This is a new journal, published beginning June 1996, with 2 volumes per year. Discussed below are the first two issues.

The editorial in the first issue says it joins "four other regular serial publications in English that are devoted to social research on Nepal" (p.3). These are Himalayan Research Bulletin, published in USA; European Bulletin of Himalayan Research, currently published in France; Contributions to Nepalese Studies, published by the Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies of Tribhuvan University; and the newly launched Journal of Nepalese Studies, published by the Royal Nepal Academy. The authors/editors view their journal (acronym SINHAS) as complementary to these other publications and think that researchers in Nepal and outside need such publications. Several papers of interest from the second issue, which is concerned with development, are reviewed below:

Des Chene, Mary, "Editorial: In the Name of Bikas (Development)" pp. 259-270. This is a critique of development as a concept and as projects. It is very interesting and insightful and in general argues that development projects exist in order to exist and feed themselves. Much of this is very apt but this is an editorial. On p. 266 Des Chene says that numbers are produced to argue for projects "and so they are dutifully produced, despite the fact that many involved in their production know those numbers to be bogus." She does not back this up with evidence; it may be true (sometimes, never, always) but it may refer to former statements concerning (estimates of the) GNP, and may mean that Nepal does not really know the extent of its economy because it is often a cash economy with no paper trail. It could mean a lot of things; it would be more useful if it were more specific.

Fujikura, Tatsuro, "Technologies of Improvement, Locations of Culture: American Discourses of Democracy and 'Community Development' in Nepal" pp. 271-311. This one gives a history of community development after 1951 when Nepal was opened up. It notes the concept of Nepal as a "development lab," a concept that people had applied because it had been closed and was considered almost a blank slate. Beyond that, this is a critique that is somewhat circular; he says that the lab project failed; but people did not blame the underlying concept, only specific circumstances. So in a sense it is a plea to be more self-critical.

Tuladhar, Bhushan, "Kathmandu's Garbage: Simple Solutions Going to Waste," pp. 365-393. This seems to be an excellent historical and political analysis of problems with waste-management in Kathmandu. The author discusses this also as an example of failures in development projects -- there have been development projects addressing the problem, and indeed the last major one (he says) broke down (completed and was not maintained by the local authorities) about the same time as democracy came in. One thing he does not mention: it was clear to me that in the winter of 1997 in the Bagbazar part of the city (where I stayed in a hotel, just a short distance from the Padmakanya campus) there was ad hoc recycling -- people and dogs both thrash through garbage dumped in the street. People find food to some extent, and also find burnable material for warmth and to cook food on the street to a large extent. Dogs of course live on the food-refuse. What will happen to them if a clean system comes in? It is likely that other first-hand observations should be made to see how the system really functions; this annotator would argue for an observational study in different parts of the city to determine what happens to garbage. But in general, despite the lack of a description of what really happens to garbage now, this is an excellent article. The annotator saw a notice in the newspaper in the winter of 1997 that aid from the US and other places will be starting a recycling project in Kathmandu and some other cities. Whether it is a pilot project in a small part of this city or something larger was not evident, but it is to be hoped that good observations of current practice are made and that the history told in this article also is incorporated.

Pandey, Bikash, "Local Benefits from Hydro Development," pp. 313-344. This important paper gives a summary of the problems of use of water for electricity. He sees hydropower as an extractive resource (like mining etc.) not necessarily (or perhaps usually) for benefit of local people. For example (p.321): "The interdependence between the health of the hydropower scheme and the subsistence and economic activities of the residents in the watershed provides a compelling reason for why local people should receive benefits from hydro development. Local residents will have little loyalty to a scheme which provides them no ongoing benefits but which impinges on their current economic activities, or ones that they may take on in the future." The author lists many concerns about hydro, one of them being roads, which are needed for development but could cause problems or be let go to ruin, and must be built in places that will be of use to the local people after the project is completed. He thinks that remote people want electricity and thus it should be provided. In the final section he gives conclusions regarding local benefits; he is not totally opposed to hydro development, but believes that local considerations need to be met, and unrealistic expectations should not be held (p.342).

Upadhya, Shizu, "Literature Review: The Status of Women in Nepal -- Fifteen Years On," pp. 423-453. This review examines five recent publications concerning women and development. It is critical of them one by one, though it finds some useful things as well. It argues for better and more directed studies. At one point in the paper, it appeared that the author was either naive or overly critical. On p. 441 she says (in reference to a study by Shtrii Shakti) that it was not clear why educating women and other local villagers about the importance of environmental sanitation should constitute an intervention benefitting women; but the general literature indicating the number of hours women spend getting clean water (or any water) for their household, and the number of hours women spend on health of diarrheal children, should make it obvious why these projects would benefit women. In any case, this is a must read for women academics involved in women in development in Nepal.
Keywords: Development; Garbage; Recycling; Resources; Development; Urban ecology; Gender; Social criticism

Subedi, Janardan (1989) Modern Health Services and Health Care Behavior: A Survey in Kathmandu, Nepal. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 30: 412-420. This article discusses medical pluralism in Nepal -- the existence of traditional and modern health care services side by side -- and it attempts to find the implications of this existence for patients' choices regarding health. It is based on a large number of interviews at two western-medicine hospitals in Kathmandu (Patan Hospital and Bir). The author finds that patients feel less "social distance" in going for traditional healers and often go there after trying home remedies and needing more help; then if the traditional care does not solve the problem they go to western care.

There is a methodological flaw since he only interviewed people at the western establishments; it would be interesting to see if some patients go to western care first and then if it does not produce relief go to traditional healers. He cites Judith Justice's work to the effect that people do tend to use western medicine as a last resort, and then if it fails they return to traditional practices. He also mentions that Nepal villagers use faith healing but the author does not do much with the non-faith healing remedies that also are available and traditional. Another flaw, however, is that he talks more about villagers' beliefs and perceptions but his data come from Kathmandu people -- not really the same population in outlook or culture. Thus there are flaws in the paper, but it is of interest in pointing out the existence of different systems and issues regarding choices people make.
Keywords: Health care; Medical anthropology; Healing practices

Tamang, Devika, Gerard J. Gill, and Ganesh B. Thapa, editors (1992) Indigenous Management of Natural Resources in Nepal. Winrock International, [Box 1312,] Kathmandu. Proceedings of a workshop held in 1992 June 8-9. The purpose of the workshop was to make scientists aware of farmers' knowledge. This work tries to distinguish indigenous from traditional; it says they may be the same but may not be the same in many cases. Gill is program leader at Winrock International. The book argues for indigenous systems and suggests that outsiders screw things up. Gill says (p. 4) the reason for soil erosion in Himalayas is that this is the youngest and fastest growing mountain chain on earth; geological pressures and climatic forces subject the region to variation in temperature, wind and rainfall, all of which contribute to soil loss.

Keywords: Natural resources; Ecology; Development

UNICEF (1989) Children and Women of Nepal. This publication says that in Nepal the areas with the highest fertility are those with the highest infant mortality (p.5), thus supporting child-survival hypotheses. Life expectancy was 58 in urban areas and 51 in rural areas in 1989. The publication mentions repelling insects and keeping warmth in the house as two reasons for smoky homes in the hilly regions. These are only a few of the topics it considers; it also refers to Kathmandu's "few street children..." with numbers possibly increasing. The book also has a section on iodine deficiency and a section on "the status of women." This is a very strong book, the weakest and shortest section being the conclusions; there are few recommendations.

Keywords: Child health; Family dynamics; Health

Vaidya, T.R., and B.R. Bajracharya, eds. (1996) Nepal People and Culture. Anmol Publishers, New Delhi. This book like many others on the ethnic groups and cultures of Nepal follows the stereotypical approach to describing people. It is sold in Nepali bookstores.

Keywords: Ethnic groups

Watkins, Joanne C. (1996) Spirited Women: Gender, Religion and Cultural Identity in the Nepal Himalaya. Columbia University Press. This very readable and engaging book is an anthropological study of the Nyeshangte group, a people whose valley lies north of Pokhara and not far south of the border with Tibet. Many of the Nyeshang people today (when the book was published) live in Kathmandu and Pokhara and many are international traders who travel to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, and northern India. The author believes this group migrated from Tibet about 600 years ago; their language Nyeshang is unwritten and has close affinities to Tibetan and Gurung; she presents a number of Nyeshang words as well as Tibetan and Nepali ones and discusses the Nyeshang relationships with other communities in Nepal. Telling stories about specific individuals and their life histories, the author uses many specific ethnographic details to support her concept that gender relations among this group are quite egalitarian; she notes that the Nyeshang have maintained quite a bit of autonomy from other Tibetan Buddhist groups and from the Nepalese state (p. 17). Because of recent economic changes, she gives an impression of the residents of the homeland valley as preponderantly female and also including some old men, young boys, and “a handful of lamas or monks” (p.26); some of these migrate seasonally to Kathmandu. Their villages range from elevations of 3,350 to 4,200 meters; communal pastures go higher, though people no longer follow the Himalayan custom of moving to higher-altitude settlements during the summer months (but they may hire impoverished Tibetan nomads to care for flocks there). Though many people do not live year-round in the Nyeshang valley, the author says that their self-concept is based on the homeland; their self-concept is continually evolving, however; it is not a fixed ethnic entity. Their definitions of themselves relate in part to differences from others they deal with—for example, the Nepalis who are Hindu---and the book contains many stories about how these contrasts are represented by Nyeshang dramas and rituals.

In addition to telling a lot about Nyeshangte people, her descriptions of their lives in Kathmandu tell of the interaction among various Tibetan Buddhist groups and shows how the social structures that developed in remote areas have been transplanted (with some changes) to urban areas.
Keywords: Nyeshangte culture; Tibetan Buddhists; Himalayan people

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