Transfiguration Of The Political: Nepali Student Activism And The Politics Of Acculturation
This dissertation is an ethnographic investigation into the process of political socialization as a means to understand Nepali political culture. It focuses on the activities of Nepali student organizations as sister organizations to the Nepali political parties. It is within the student organizations that individuals receive both their social training and ideological indoctrination into Nepali party politics. Moreover, student activism in Nepal has played a central role in how national politics unfolds. Politics at the university level has had a powerful impact on statewide politics and social change through the mobilization of the masses, the entrenchment of political party ideology, and the production of career politicians. Therefore, just as the student organizations' politics are the gateway into Nepali mainstream politics, analysis of their practices and political attitudes can provide a view into more pervasive conceptions and processes in the larger political landscape. In this dissertation I conceive of the student organizations as a mini-public that provides a view on how political culture plays out in general forums. This dissertation is the culmination of a five-year research project during which I observed Nepali student activists become national politicians. I tracked the process whereby university students become involved in national political life by emphasizing emergent needs while simultaneously becoming socialized into the politics that they are trying to change. Students continue to be at the fore of making radical political demands, standing on the political ground gained by the generations before them. Analysis of the experience of political activism as it changes across generations has served as an effective tool to track less easily delineated political and cultural change. Furthermore, focusing on interaction between activists of different generations allows me to understand how people personally orient themselves in the political field. A culturally focused study of Nepali politics is particularly relevant in the current context while Nepal remains on the radar of international monitoring groups. This dissertation analyzes how Nepali student actors' discursively negotiate international political values into their repertoire. I argue that the ways in which universal principles are reconciled with local, cultural values elucidates how these activists perceive international democratic values' place in their own local context. My analysis focuses on how Nepali political actors interpretations' of global democratic norms are calculated with the recognition that they are speaking to a larger audience beyond Nepali citizens. The manner in which they do this is intended to insert themselves and their politics into a larger scope. This is an interpretative process that highlights both the local and the global and an interaction between them.
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