Yale Himalaya Initiative

environment | livelihood | culture

Modernity and Agency: How Activists Reconstructed Nepali Society

Event time: 
Friday, March 31, 2017 - 4:30pm to 5:30pm
Room 105 See map
10 Sachem Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 
David N. Gellner

Professor of Social Anthropology,
University of Oxford

Latour’s ideas and terminology have been widely influential within social and cultural anthropology, even amongst those who are not inclined to follow Actor-Network-Theory. Latourian vocabulary for describing the modernity we have never had is acceptable and often suggestive, but Latour’s attack on individual and collective human agency is particularly ill suited to explaining the rise of new kinds of identity. I describe the rise of new ‘ethnic’ and ‘macro category’ identities in Nepal and suggest that the analysis applies to many other social identities as well. I argue that activists are masters and mediators of Latourian ’hybridity’.

Bio: David N. Gellner is Professor of Social Anthropology and Head of Department in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, Oxford. He has worked on religion, ritual, ethnicity, politics, caste, and borderlands in Nepal since 1981. Among his books are Nationalism and Ethnicity in a Hindu Kingdom (Harwood, 1997; 2nd ed. Vajra, 2008), Rebuilding Buddhism: The Theravada Movement in Twentieth-Century Nepal(Harvard, 2005), Ethnic Activism and Civil Society in South Asia (Sage, 2009), Borderland Lives in Northern South Asia (Duke, 2013), andReligion, Secularism, and Ethnicity in Contemporary Nepal (OUP, 2016).

Supported by the Ethnography and Social Theory Colloquim and South Asian Studies Council at the Macmillan Center.