The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

A Study of the Transformation of Nepal through the Rise of the Maoist Movement

Joint Research Coordinator MINAMI Makito

Reserch Theme List


The objectives of this research are to examine the current situation in Nepal in the wake of the communist party (Unified-Maoist) internal insurrection by (1) discussing from a variety of angles the social and economic changes in Nepal and their backgrounds; and (2) while understanding what contributions anthropology can make in terms of research, seeking to promote the anthropology. In looking at the origins of the problems with the1990 democratization efforts and the Maoist armed struggle which commenced in 1996, we have to consider the special characteristics of Nepal in terms of its monarchial system, its nature as a multiethnic nation, its stratified society with a caste system, disparities in development by region, and its complex relationship with India. In addition, the popularization of global-scale influences such as the concepts of democracy, human rights, freedom, equality, development and their application had a profound connection. This research will attempt to ascertain how these domestic and foreign factors and differing vectors intertwined. We will also consider what approach micro-level research, such as anthropology can offer and can take in response to such a macro-level national crisis.

Research Results

This joint research committee held research meetings on a total of nine occasions, at which members, including seven special lecturers (three of whom are Nepalese), presented their research findings followed by discussions about the findings. Half of the group members were simultaneously Co-Investigators of JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research, Scientific Research (B) “An Anthropological Study of the Rise of the Maoist Movement and Its Influence over Local Communities in Nepal: Facing the Period of Polity Change”. These researchers presented reports based on their field studies that incorporated the latest information from Nepal and their analyses. A total of twenty-three individuals participated in research meetings as observers. During the past four years Nepal has undergone tremendous changes that could not have been foreseen when the joint research commenced, starting with the comprehensive peace agreement among seven major political parties and the Maoists that ended the civil war (November 2006). This settlement was followed by the transformation of the Maoists into a political party (January 2007), the victory of the Maoist election for the Constituent Assembly (becoming the top political party), the abolition of the monarchy and birth of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal (May 2008), and the formation of the Maoist coalition government (August 2008 to May 2009). Many of these developments, including the abolition of the monarchy, the establishment of the republic, the secular state, and inclusive democracy (e.g. a seat-reservation system for minorities in the Constituent Assembly election) fulfilled demands the Maoists had made from the start. Without the transformation and strides of the Maoists (from an armed insurgent force into a constitutional political party), the revolution could not have been carried out at this dizzying speed. This joint research identified the following factors behind the emergence of the Maoist movements: (1) The Maoists were successful in involving minorities, including ethnic groups, the Dalit (untouchable castes) and women. That is, the Maoists appropriated ethnic movements and the Dalit liberation movement. (2) The highhanded methods such as direct rule indulged in by King Gyanendra fueled popular sentiment for the abolition of the monarchy and institution of a republican system (chance factor). (3) The aversion of the Nepalese people to rampant violence and extreme tension led to a strong desire for the termination of violence and establishment of peace. (4) At the village level the Maoists engaged with the political culture by advocating justice and rights and eliminating injustice, while diffusing literacy in a broad sense, such as logical narrations and written culture. That is, the Maoists brought about “modernization.” Conversely, examples can clearly be cited in which the diffusion of education and progress in “development” opened the eyes of the populace to consciousness of their rights and made them sympathetic to Maoist arguments.