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Lauren Leve - South Asia Studies Colloquium
WhenThursday, Dec. 5, 2019, 3:30 – 5 p.m.
Campus locationDenny Hall (DEN)
Campus room313
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsSouth Asia Center, University of Washington

Lauren Leve (University of North Carolina)
South Asia Studies Colloquium

“God Will Never Abandon Us”: Christian Women, Moral Agency and the Nepal State

Not long ago considered one of the “hottest” of Maoist hotbeds, and a district famous for women’s active participation in the insurrection, Gorkha, Nepal is now home to a different kind of revolutionary transformation—yet one in which women continue to play leading roles. Beginning in the early 2000s, Nepali Christian missionaries began to take advantage of the breakdown of state authority and the insecurity caused by the People’s War to preach Christianity among displaced Gorkhalis who had fled the fighting in their villages. While reliable numbers are difficult to find, it is estimated that there were less than 200 Nepali Christians living in Gorkha in 1991, whereas there are thousands, and indeed, perhaps tens of thousands who worship in churches spread across the district today. This paper draws on ongoing ethnographic research at a church that was founded by two Nepali women and that continues to be headed by a female pastor. Anthropologists of Christianity have noted the importance of Christian rhetorics of peace and care in South Asia as a whole. I contend that these are widely understood as gendered practices in post-conflict Gorkha, and that the forces that draw Gorkhalis to the Christian god must be analyzed in relation to the ethical failure of both the Maoist leaders and the Hindu State. Attending to Gorkhali women’s religious enterprise and to gendered religious labor as an insurgent affective agency opens the door to new understandings of the rise of Christianity in contemporary South Asia, and to new questions about gender, democratic aspirations, and the state in post-conflict communities.

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