Forthcoming

I don't want to see stores looted or buildings burned; but African- Americans have been living in burning buildings for years, choking on smoke as flames burn closer and closer.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s your foot on my neck.  – Malcolm X

"We must never, ever give up. We must be brave. We must be courageous." John Lewis, activist, congressman. 1940-2020 

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. ~ Dalai Lama

"Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public."  Professor Cornel West.

"Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat."  Audre Lorde

"The serious function of racism is distraction". 1995, Toni Morrison; Portland lecture, Playing in The Dark

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.” Nora Ephron

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

"We are more alike than we are different" ~ Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singe

 

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain

 

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore

 

 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:

 

"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.

 

Selected Articles on Nepal

 

How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?

January 16, 2019

“Every family has someone outside.” Conversations about Nepal’s dysfunctional economy invariably lead to its four million citizens, mainly young men, working abroad. (Some say they number seven million– either way, a sizable slice in a population of 28 million.)

Those workers are migrants to Arab Gulf States, Malaysia and India. Their remittances, supporting millions of families at home, form the unhealthy backbone of Nepal’s economy.

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Can Nepal Realistically Look to China as an Alternative Trade Partner?

January 4, 2019

Three sturdy trekkers step out of a van and hoist top-heavy blue, green and orange rucksacks onto their backs. The two young women and a man then set off on foot, headed to one of Kathmandu’s numerous backpackers’ hotels. I ask where they’ve arrived from; “Langtang”, replies one of the women and hurries on. (Langtang is a rugged, remote valley north of the capital popular with hikers). The trio is likely booked at a Chinese lodge in Nepal’s newly designated “Chinatown”. That’s a crowded strip of shops, hotels and cafes in Thamel, the low-end tourist quarter of the Nepalese capital.

Those three young trippers, all Chinese, are part of an international community enjoying the rigors and glamour of Himalayan hiking.

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Literature Can Displace Anthropology

August 31, 2018

When I found myself well into my career as an anthropologist specializing in Himalayan peoples, I came across an historical episode concerning two no-longer living but obviously brilliant women who had performed remarkable political feats in the early 20thcentury. I undertook to uncover their stories, determined first because inspired by feminist revelations, I myself was in search of women heroes, and second because I had had enough of anthropology’s imperialist claims of scientific impartiality. This meant my breaking from both traditional research methodologies and from academic writing conventions.

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मानवशास्त्रभन्दा माथि

आश्विन २०, २०७५

काठमाडौँ — सन १९८० ताका नेपालमा तानाशाही शासन थियो । त्यसैले योगमायाको सेरोफेरोका घटनामा चासो राख्नु एउटा खतरा मोल्नु नै थियो । नेपालभरि नै असहमत व्यक्तित्वको रूपमा चिनिएकी पारिजात त्रसित हुनेवाला थिइन् । त्यसैले उनले मलाई लागिपर्न प्रेरित गरिन् । यसैको आधार लेखेको मेरो पुस्तक ‘हेर टु अ साइलेन्ट सङ’ काठमाडौंमा १७ वर्षअघि निस्किएको हो ।

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Migrant Labor: A Central Pillar of Nepal’s Grim Economy

July 28, 2018

They appear a hapless collection of desperate village lads lured by false promises, making their way to a hostile place fraught with peril. A small but significant number perish while working abroad, shipped home in a stark wooden box. Yet millions of Nepal’s youths take the imponderable risks. They remain away four or more years, subjected to severe climate conditions, often misled about their assignments and salaries, dismissed for minor infractions. Yet their numbers swell year-after-year, with remittances back to their families mounting correspondingly.

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Nepal’s Economy – Can Contented Tourists Match Desperate Migrant Laborers?

July 21, 2018

A busy air route between Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport and overseas is via the communications hub of The Arab Emirates. Several direct flights between Abu Dhabi or Doha and Nepal depart and arrive daily. Appearing unremarkable (on any day or year over the last decade), any assemblage of passengers, outbound or inbound, itself informs the character of Nepal’s impoverished (sic) economy:- workers remittances–the major sector– foreign aid, and tourism.

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Becoming a Democracy: the Example of Nepal

June 29, 2018

Hardly noticed on the world landscape of emerging democracies, lies Nepal. This new republic now has the first government, newly formed this past February, under a secular constitution. It’s a route is scattered with the detritus of its becoming a republic, though still a relatively nonviolent path.

Why is the international press not following Nepal’s embryonic struggle?

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An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!

November 24, 2017

It was just a local rumor in a remote Himalayan village. Now it’s a history lesson for children across Nepal.

I doubt if an entry in grade 10 English textbooks is what a normal anthropologist aspires to? I certainly never dreamt of it. But it happened. Am I thrilled? You bet.

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Nepal Hill Art and Women’s Traditions - Part I

July 31, 2017

As I cull my writings, I find a few articles undeletable. Even as a historical portrait, some seem to be relevant today. In Nepal, land cultivation is declining as young people seek employment abroad to earn cash. Nepal, even for its poorer citizens, including farmers, has become a consumer economy. Meanwhile women continue to produce alcohol for sale and bead jewelry for a daughters’ marriage. This edited 1978 story will be posted in 3 parts.

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Women’s Art and Other Work in Nepal’s Hill Country - Part II

August 4, 2017

Chait Purnima morning. The essentials for our day’s work are assembled before guest workers arrive on our doormats. A five gallon pot of kodo (millet beer) is fermenting inside the house; we also have six bottles of raxsi, the clear gin-like drink distilled from fermented kodo. Kodo is generally not for sale but produced (in every home) for family consumption. (A better quality is made and reserved for special occasions.) Danamaya had only a week to prepare this stock so it is coarser (and less potent). It will have to do.

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 Nepal: Women’s Art and Politics - Part III

August 12, 2017

Aama disappears into the darkened house to light the fire. Flames ignite from hot coals stirred out of the ash and Aama eases a pot of kodo onto the rock grill. Neither an announcement nor a spoken invitation is needed. We rise from our workplaces and move inside, seating ourselves around the hearth. Danamaya takes a ladle, stirs the brew, and pours a spoon of the steaming liquor in each brass bowl set on the ground in front of us.

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China or India: Does Nepal Have a Realistic Choice?

June 17, 2016

I was crossing the airstrip to a small aircraft that would take me to Nepal’s interior. We had left the disarray of the departure hall in Kathmandu airport with its melee of early morning hopefuls anxious to escape the polluted city and fly to a trailhead in search of fresh mountain streams and clean air. Planes are in short supply here and cancellations of domestic flights are common. Although those waiting foreigners seemed remarkably patient with the delays, perhaps attributing the disorder to high altitude. Politics wouldn’t figure into any charming anecdote sent from their holidays in the Himalayas. Neither was I thinking about Nepal’s political troubles at that moment. Not until my colleague directed my attention to a medium sized plane parked on the edge of the tarmac.

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One Happy Man: a Nepal Case Study

May 10, 2016

Only occasionally, in contrast to anecdotes from Kathmandu’s fashion conscious upper class occupied with their tech and music trends and the city’s new eateries, and avoiding dismal stories of government incompetence and rising poverty and hopelessness, I encounter a refreshingly rare testimonial. Today Purna Tamang’s personal life is advancing with optimism and pride. This absent of any envy for luxuries a relative in Texas enjoys, and without a dollar’s aid from the plethora of wasteful international charities jammed into Nepal’s capital.

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Democracy in Nepal Passes a Second Test

July 7, 2017

Nepal’s 28 million citizens have waited 20 years for the elections that finally took place during recent weeks (with the final 10 percent of ballots still being counted). These are nationwide elections for city, ward and village chairpersons, mayors and councils– positions vacant for two decades. These newly elected officials might offer some order and hope to citizens’ largely stagnant lives for too long. The democracy they had welcomed with the overthrow of the monarchy brought them little beyond party and ethnic squabbles and ineffective governance from Kathmandu, their corruption-infected capital.

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Nepal’s Democracy Landmark (a Constitution) Leads to Instability

October 26, 2015

To set the framework for its infant democracy, to recognize its rich pluralist character, and to enshrine its secular ideals Nepal had finally awarded itself a new constitution. Barely five months after earthquakes struck Kathmandu and neighboring districts an agreement that had eluded Nepal’s constituent assembly for eight years was finalized. Perhaps its resolve came from pressure exerted by global humanitarian donors meeting to award earthquake relief; perhaps in the face of this national disaster Nepal’s citizens realized how desperately they needed clear governance.

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Nepal: Earth Tremors Fading, Monsoon Looming

June 8, 2015

Kathmandu is gradually repopulating with residents like Anil who left soon after April’s earthquake. He explains that he returned to the capital from Chitwan (in south Nepal, bordering India). “I went for 20 days with father (also a taxi driver) and my stepmother; we have no house in the village, so we slept here”, he says, gently pounding the steering wheel of his taxi. Small boned and lean like many poor youths, Anil nevertheless sports a silver earring, head shaved on both sides with his silky black forelock flopping forward. Just 18, Anil is a licensed taxi driver, having learned to drive at 15, taught by his father.

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Demolition Dilemmas Across Nepal

May 29, 2015

There is little doubt that they have to come down. But how will priorities be decided? Who will pay? Then how will the formidable task of securing Nepal’s homes, schools, hospitals and offices proceed?

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Schoolboy Looks to Nepal’s Army With New Pride

May 26, 2015

“I want to be in the army”, replied Sophil quietly, responding to his father’s urging to tell this visitor about his future goal. I had been introduced to the 9-year old child a week earlier as he sat in a place of honor inside his parent’s home, accepting gifts and congratulations following completion of ‘vratabandha’, the Nepali coming-of-age ceremony for boys. His father Bhagwan Shrestha and I have been working on a teacher training project and I was again at their home to discuss the school’s schedule and how we might address the needs of staff’s and students’ families most adversely affected by the earthquake.

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Awaiting the Next Rumble in Nepal

May 18, 2015

Is Nepal in danger of being buried in data overload? The deluge of data about quake conditions may be part of the culture of an over-documented Nepal. Whether accepting belated, useless advice from the US Geological Survey, or prosaic utterances of their prime minister– the lackluster, fatigued Sushil Koirala– or Facebook rumors, Nepalis are in a 72-hour state of suspension. (Maybe it will be again extended.) After Tuesday’s frightening quake, although damage and casualties are less, a subdued but undeniable panic and much disquiet has emerged, perhaps greater than what followed the first and greater quake 18-19 days ago.

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Three Women in Search of Muna’s House: a Nepal Guide to Gongabu

May 13, 2015

Kathmandu.

There’s a patch of Nepal I’d never seen before–it’s called Buspark or Gongabu, (‘cock-field’). Since there’s no guidebook available—I find it inadvertently on my search for Muna’s mother. She’s the woman left alone and brokenhearted when her daughter, Muna, our Amrit student, and husband were crushed in their home 2 weeks ago. “Where is Umm Muna and how can we assist her?” asks an Iraqi friend– my anonymous, irrepressible humanitarian on this blog elist. Sukanya our school director is concerned too—“We might learn more when school resumes and her schoolmates return next week”. Despite saying this, Sukanya, expedient, ever dependable Sukanya, is not someone who willingly delays. She calls Rita, one of our primary class teachers, and within 10 minutes, the three of us set out together on foot. Muna’s family apartment was somewhere near the school– just here, just here. “Just here” turns into my discovery of the now infamous Gongabu.

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Nepal: Signs of Progress, If Not Hope

May 11, 2015

Kathmandu, Nepal.

Our night skies are still battered by the sounds never heard over Nepal before—they are the monster cargo planes departing after disgorging millions of tones and tones of relief aid. This should be a welcome disturbance. But given our tenseness, it is one more sign of the crisis enveloping us. Tremors too continue. Some stop us in our tracks midday; others awaken us from sleep, setting off sustained bursts of barking feral dogs. Tremors immediately following the quake were really upsetting—menacing—and remain never less than threatening. Gradually, against instinct, we accept advice from scientists saying these waves of the earth will continue to decline and are not, as first supposed, a resumption of the great upheaval of 13 days ago.

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Dispatch From Kathmandu

May 6, 2015

Kathmandu, Nepal.

Revisiting a school I know well in Kathmandu city, I meet Tilok just as he and his wife, a school teacher, and their baby are about to depart for Darjeeling, Northeast India where her parents live. This young family is among hundreds of thousands of mainly Kathmandu Valley residents leaving the city to be near loved ones, to be assured that their home villages and uncultivated lands are intact and perhaps to recognize that those fields they abandoned for salaried work in the city and beyond now offer a newly discovered security.

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