Accepted paper:

"Not an ornament but a body part of the nation": cultural art mediating ancestral belonging and social change in Nepal


Monica Mottin (Ruskin College, Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how cultural art mediates past oppression and present emancipatory action in Nepal.

Paper long abstract:

Ethnic identity politics emerged powerfully in Nepal since the 1990s, dominating the political scene with the establishment of a democratic republic in 2008. Cultural activists use the term kala sanskriti (cultural art) to indicate a wide range of elements that express indigenous identities such as traditional songs, dances, musical instruments, dresses, and ornaments. They explain that cultural art carries their histories. Cultural art is also perceived as a privileged way of communicating with audiences during social and political campaigns, touching their hearts in immediate and profound ways. Performed in national programmes, local festivals, tourist venues, social and political events, indigenous dances turns ethnic difference into a visible and tangible presence.

This paper aims at examining media representations of indigenous performance, Tharu in particular, and understanding different platforms in which cultural art mediates images of ancestral dynamic connections, often associated with oppression and marginalization, while at the same time carrying promises of future liberation.

panel Body04
Indigenous imaginations: creative bodies and embodied resistance