Accepted paper:

Foreign labour migration and subaltern Dalits in Nepal: reconfiguring economic and social relations

Authors:

Ramesh Sunam (United Nations University )

Paper short abstract:

Foreign labour migration continues to rise in Nepal affecting the lives and livings of many people. Drawing on ethnographic research with the Dalit, I explore how Dalits have used their agency to contest caste institutions by mobilizing financial and social remittances accumulated through migration.

Paper long abstract:

Foreign labour migration continues to rise in Nepal affecting the lives and livings of many people. In this article, I draw on ethnographic research with the Dalit, a subaltern group adversely incorporated into a caste hierarchy, to examine the role of foreign labour migration in altering migrants' economic and cultural space in their places of origin. In particular, I explore how Dalits have used their agency to contest caste institutions by mobilizing financial and social remittances accumulated through migration. Despite the hardship that migrant workers face abroad, Dalits have endured it to transform social relations at their place of origin and create a dignified identity. I argue that such changes could have hardly been seen before our eyes for many Dalits had there not been enthnoscapes created by globalization, and if it was denied because of their low caste status. Many of the existing migration studies analyse the economic side of migration with little attention to the social and cultural dimension. This article seeks to complement these analyses by showing how Dalits repudiate caste relations that have perpetuated discrimination and exploitation. I challenge, if only modestly, the assertion that Dalits accept their subordination and degradation.

panel P042
Politics, culture, and cultural politics in the Himalayas