Nepal

Participant observation and ethnographic interviews with ex-PLA fighters across pre- and post-war contexts.

The Maoist ‘People’s War’ (1996-2006) in Nepal was instigated by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M). The armed insurgency was waged against the government and aimed at overthrowing the over 200 years old Hindu monarchy and replacing it with a new democratic platform. The Maoist movement is not reducible to its armed element, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), but comprises a wider social movement.

What makes Nepal such an interesting case is the way in which the Maoist movement was able to mobilise the complex, overlapping hierarchies that structure society in Nepal, along the lines of class, caste, ethnicity, gender, and region with far reaching ramifications for the post-war society. The CPN-M drew most of its cadres from the rural youth and historically marginalized ethnic and caste groups, and 30-40% of the PLA fighters were women, the movement propagating a distinct gender ideology. The extent of the change was exemplified in the Constituent Assembly, elected in 2008, that was the most representative elected body in Nepal’s history, and in its first sitting abolished the Monarchy. The post-war context has witnessed the entry of the Maoist party into mainstream parliamentary politics, a period of intense international involvement in the form of ‘peacebuilding’, and a complex process of restructuring the state.

Project fieldwork in Nepal will focus on the experiences and trajectories of PLA fighters across pre- to post-war contexts. Dr Hanna Ketola will interview ex-fighters of varied rank, activists engaged in continuing forms of mobilisation (including the victims’ movement), and politicians across the party-spectrum. Inspired by feminist methodologies, the research approach combines ethnographic interviews and participant observation and centres reflexivity in data collection and analysis. This includes analysing the embodied performances that emerge through research encounters to get a deeper understanding of how and why specific narratives emerge and how subjectivities are crafted in connection to wider discursive and institutional contexts.