About My Research

I am currently a Teaching Fellow at NYU Shanghai, and I completed my PhD in Anthropology from the University of Virginia in summer 2017. From January 2014-December 2015, I lived in Kathmandu, Nepal, conducting ethnographic fieldwork for my dissertation, titled “Nepali First: Nationalism and Citizenship in a New Secular Republic.” In this project, I investigate how Nepali people envision, debate, and enact national unity in the midst of a tumultuous and ongoing transition from Hindu monarchy to secular democracy in a federal republic. Because the Nepali state has long been imagined to have derived its national character from the leadership of Hindu kings, the process of re-establishing the state as secular and federal has opened up fundamental questions about nation, religious identity, and citizenship. The long-standing hegemony of Hindu high-caste elites is being seriously challenged by political parties and activists calling for guaranteed proportional representation for marginalized groups, division of federal states along ethnolinguistic lines, and even guaranteed rights of secession for the yet-to-be-formed federal states as a safeguard against domination from the center. My research analyzes the ways in which Nepali people who oppose the division of the country along ethnic and religious lines are attempting to re-imagine Nepal as a united, secular, democratic state while being confronted with institutional legacies of religious hierarchy and ethnic inequality. This project has been funded by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the University of Virginia.

In summer 2018, I will return to Kathmandu to begin field research for my second major project, tentatively titled “Bureaucratizing Inequality: Nepal’s Civil Service in Transition.” This field research is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Council of American Overseas Research Centers.

If you’re interested in participating in my research or in collaborating, please feel free to get in touch with me!

The cover image for this page is a picture of the Trailokya Mohan Narayan temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. I took this picture at a demonstration for human rights in December 2014/Pus 2071. The temple, like many others in the area, was destroyed by the earthquake on April 25, 2015/Baisakh 12, 2072.

UVaToday magazine published this photo essay about my research in Nepal.