2013 Dor Bahadur 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.