Not all study abroad semesters are glamorous vacation getaways. Junior Josh Lore and senior Jenny Dunker are spending this semester studying the effects of war and political and economic change in the country of Nepal. From 1996 until 2006, Nepal was in the midst of a civil war between the government and Maoist militia. The war ended when the monarchy was overthrown and replaced with a Federalized Republic. Just recently, Nepal held its first democratic elections.
Lore and Dunker are not spending their semester with any established program. Rather, they are staying with locals and conducting independent studies with several professors overseeing their work. Their journey includes a one month stay in the capital city of Kathmandu, followed by two months in the rural mountain village of Kashur before returning to Kathmandu for two weeks. Their studies focus on topics such as nonviolent conflict resolution and identity perception in a changing society.
In an email interview, Lore described the government and military conflict as only part of a broad environment of change. According to Lore, millions of independent farmers are migrating from the country to the cities of Nepal.
“The real context is a nation caught in the tension of having to modernize and ‘capitalize’ in order to become relevant in a globalized world, and the fraying of cultural, communal and social fabric that results from this subtly and structurally violent process,” Lore said. “What happens to the people who have for generations lived off the land when such a lifestyle is suddenly deemed irrelevant by those in financial and political power?”
The reasons for why this is happening and how it is affecting the people of Nepal are the substance of Lore and Dunker’s ethnographic study. Lore noted the surprising ability of the Nepalese people to celebrate life in such trying times. He mentioned that car horns are used frequently to communicate, but not to spite. Compared to the United States, Lore said that people in Nepal are less likely to complain about work and life.
“Sadly as the country is ‘modernizing,’ many of these qualities of simplicity, patience and community seem to be a fleeting feature of the society and ‘individualism’ a more common one,” Lore said.
In the midst of vast change, protests occur regularly in Nepal. Political protests by college students are most prevalent and tend to be more violent than others. Things such as tires and roadblocks being burned is the extent of much protest. City-wide shutdowns of transportation and businesses also occur frequently as a form of protest. According to Lore, these often become violent.
Lore is attempting to document their journey with photos that can be viewed over the Internet and through a series of writings he is working on in which he assumes the perspective of a reporter during the recent history of Nepal. His work can be viewed on the Internet at http://www.flickr.com/photos/30682141@N03/.
Through the turmoil of conflict and change, Lore and Dunker still find Nepal to be a special place.
“There’s a strong Himalayan and Buddhist/Hindu influence, and you can find that everywhere, from the people to the temples to the ‘holy monkeys’ that roam the streets,” Lore said. “It’s easy to escape the tension and get lost in the beauty.”