Dor Bahadur Bista Awards

2015 Dor Bahadur Bista Prize Winner


The winner of the 2015 Dor Bahadur Bista Prize for best graduate student paper is Uma Pradhan, a PhD candidate in International Development at the University of Oxford. Her paper, “The New Languages of Schooling: Ethnicity, Education and Equality in Nepal,” is an original, well written, and timely piece on the current dynamics of mother tongue education in Nepal that is based on recent ethnographic research. Pradhan’s was one of five submissions considered in this year’s competition. In addition to International Development, the applicants (2 MA students, 3 PhD students) represented the fields of Political Science, Geography, Sociology, and Environment and Business, and are enrolled at universities in the US (3), Canada (1), and England (1). All but one of the applicants was a Nepali national.
Uma Pradhan’s Abstract
Mother-tongue education has remained a controversial issue in Nepal. Scholars, activists and policy-makers have, on the one hand, favored mother-tongue education from the standpoint of social justice. Against these views, others have identified this as predominantly groupist in its orientation and not helpful in an imagination of a unified national community. Taking this contention as a point of inquiry, this paper aims to explore the contested space of mother-tongue education to understand the ways in which people position themselves within the polarizing debates of ethnicity-based claims on education in Nepal. Drawing from the ethnographic fieldwork in mother-tongue education school, in this paper, I illustrate that the students made meaning in their everyday world by maintaining the multilingual repertoire that included their mother tongue, Nepali and some English; multilingualism was used as a strategy for mother-tongue education. I propose a notion of simultaneity to explain this attempt to seek membership into multiple groups and display of apparently contradictory dynamics. The practices in these schools, on the one hand, display inward-looking characteristics through the everyday use of mother tongue, the construction of unified ethnic identity and cultural practices. On the other hand, there were outward-looking dynamics of making claims in the universal spaces of national education and public places. The salience of these processes is the simultaneous membership to multiple groups, claims over public spaces and in the spaces of nationalism, hitherto associated with Nepali. This paper illustrates that contrary to the essentialist categories espoused in both nationalist discourse and ethnic activism, students in these school display affiliation to multiple languages and identities that were seen as neither incompatible nor binary opposites.

2014 Dor Bahadur Bista Prize Winner


The 2014 winner of the Dor Bahadur Bista Prize was Jacob Rinck.  Jacob’s innovative paper uses historical and archival material to examine changing political practices around land in the Tarai since 1950.  Jacob is a PhD student at Yale University in Anthropology.  More information about his research can be found at his webpage.

Jacob Rinck’s abstract

This paper examines aspects of Nepal’s changing political economy by tracing the relationship between political elites and agrarian structures in the central Tarai since the first democratic revolution in 1950. Based on a review of existing literature on land reform and land distribution, as well as ethnographic material from Dhanusha district gathered during 2013 summer research, it tentatively argues that the political importance of land decreased significantly over the three decades of Panchayat rule between 1960 and 1990. In the 1940s and 1950s, land was the major economic and political resource; all top political leaders at the time came from landlord families. After the introduction of a land ceiling in 1964, however, access to patronage resources distributed through the royal palace, and later the democratic government, in Kathmandu seems to have become much more important. This change manifests itself in the social background of national level leaders from Dhanusha in the 1990s, as leaders from middle-caste, middle-peasant backgrounds started successfully challenging candidates from older elites in elections. These observations challenge interpretations of Nepal’s 1964 land reform as unsuccessful; re-distributive effects in the short run may have been limited, but it does seem to have led to a significant decline of the value of land as form of political capital, and may have contributed to the opening up of political space in the long run.

2013 Dor Bahaudr Bista Prize Winner


The competition this year received an unprecedented number of papers, the quality of which was remarkably high. Of the nine papers submitted, four were from the US, three from the UK, and one each from Canada and Australia. The papers covered an array of disciplines, including Anthropology (2), Geography, Social and Cultural Psychology, Linguistics, Second Language Studies, Public Policy, Cultural and Spatial Ecology, and International Development.

Pauline Limbu, PhD candidate in the Dept of Anthropology at Cornell University, has been awarded the 2013 Dor Bista Bahadur Prize for her paper entitled”From Kipat to Autonomy: Land and Territory in Today’s Limbuwan Movement.”


Pauline Limbu’s Abstract:

This paper is written in the context of current post-conflict transitional period in Nepal where expectations of justice and equality for historically marginalized communities are based, partly, on future state restructuring of the country. One of the major challenges around state restructuring in Nepal is to address the aspirations of movements demanding autonomy through identity-based federal states. This paper explores the Limbuwan movement, a political movement for greater autonomy in Eastern Nepal among an ethnic group who live in the East called Limbus. This paper uses the Limbuwan and Limbu example to shed light on how claims about proposed federal states are situated in a shared understanding of history linked to land and territory. I do this by examining how territorial history shaped the current Limbuwan movement and how those in the movement, in turn, use this history to legitimize their claims to attain their political goal of a federal autonomous state. I particularly focus on kipat lands which were ostensibly a historical form of communal land management but also, this paper argues, symbolic of much more for Limbus. I examine firstly the Limbus’ historical relation with their kipat lands and ancestral territory, and how the contemporary Limbuwan movement’s territorial claims are based on particular readings of this history. I secondly argue that kipat has provided an aspect of Limbu identity and belonging to their territory and, further, kipat has transformed or expanded beyond a system of land tenure and management to a developed notion of territoriality and autonomy for Limbus. This paper draws on written sources, interviews, ethnographic field work in Eastern Nepal as well as theoretical studies on land, territory, autonomy and identity.

Contact Info

ANHS Mail, % J. Fortier
University of California San Diego
Department of Anthropology
9500 Gilman Drive, #0532
La Jolla, CA 92093-0532

ANHS Kathmandu Research Center
54 Kantishree Marg, Baluwatar
Kathmandu, Nepal.
Phone: 01-4425797
[email protected]