The Language of Ethnicity: Indigenous Narratives in Nepal soon after the Peoples’ War (1996–2006)

  • Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


This text examines how ethnic activism in Nepal developed a political language that stressed local particularities and engaged in politics of difference while seeking to address audiences across the globe. It is argued that a language of ethnicity evolved in a series of translation acts. Looking back at long histories of oppression and marginalisation, members of ethnic groups – in Nepal as elsewhere – seek to reassert themselves by engaging in public representations and by creating a common ground in the framework of global ethnic activism and hence global normative horizons. While moving between local, national and global audiences, ethnic activists transport and mould meanings, creating a common denominator for a semantic field that is intelligible to the widest possible diverse audience. Translation is viewed here as a complex exercise: moving back and forth between local, national and global forums of communication and engagement while adopting, rejecting and shaping the means of expression and the related knowledge repertoires. These acts can engage with and react to meanings created within fields of power seen as oppressive or enabling. By deploying a wide-ranging repertoire of narrative figures, such political communication aims at capturing, channelling and expanding public attention.


Nepal, ethnic activism, ethnicity, indigeneity, boundary work, globality, narratives, cultural translation