Accepted Paper:

New ritual landscapes and the formation of Rai ethnic identity in Eastern Nepal  

Author:

Alban von Stockhausen (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines how new ritual landscapes are appropriated in the process of the (re-)formation of Rai ethnic identity in Eastern Nepal.

Paper long abstract:

The paper examines how new ritual landscapes are appropriated in the process of the (re-)formation of Rai ethnic identity in Eastern Nepal. Taking the example of a new pilgrimage site in Eastern Nepal, it will be shown how the strong emphasis on ethnic identity in national politics and the declared freedom of religion have led to a new importance of sacred space. Claiming sacred territory has become a potent strategy in the struggle for power and recognition within the Rai communities in Nepal and its diasporas. The given example of Tuwachung Hill near the famous Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage site of Halesi / Maratika illustrates the on-going processes in which cultural and political activists are strategically utilizing sacred, ritual or mythological space as a powerful means for claiming territory and thereby defining new ethnic identities. The paper is based on an on-going research project on "Ritual, Space, Mimesis: Performative Traditions and Ethnic Identity among the Rai of Eastern Nepal" at the Department of South Asian, Tibetan, and Buddhist Studies of the University of Vienna.

Panel P28
Public displays of ethnic identity in Nepal