Project

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Living with violence: rural livelihoods in Mid-Western Nepal during and after the People's War

Applicant Korf Benedikt
Number 124459
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Geographisches Institut Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Social geography and ecology
Start/End 01.06.2009 - 30.09.2013
Approved amount 181'535.00
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Keywords (9)

political geography; geographies of violence; vulnerability; rural livelihoods; case study research; Nepal; capability; governable spaces; case study

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
The research project investigates the impacts of different forms of violence, coercion and control on rural livelihoods in Mid-Western Nepal during and after the People's War (1996-2006). It will study how different social groups and individuals have navigated through the difficult social and political terrain that characterized rural Nepal during this period. The focus will be on a retrospective analysis of livelihood strategies during the ongoing People's War, but attention will also be given to the precarious political transformation after the ceasefire agreement. This study will provide a fine-grained analysis of local political dynamics, livelihood strategies and the broader political ramifications. Our expectation is that violence in its different guises does not only produce destructive and disempowering impacts, but also induces social change and provides opportunities for certain groups and individuals while hampering or restraining others. Field research will be conducted in two study sites in Mid-Western Nepal. The research is informed by four central hypotheses: first, governable spaces - the social figurations of powerful actor groups, their agendas and practices - are expected to be highly malleable and spatially differentiated. Second, the multiplicity of rules and rulers creates spatial and temporal dynamic figurations that provide room for social navigation for people living in rural communities. Third, these spaces for social navigation provide opportunities and threats, thereby forging ambivalent spaces of vulnerability. Fourth, spaces for navigation are likely to differ between various individuals in a given place and time, thereby re-forging social relations in rural communities. Field work is organized in three phases and different work packages and is implemented by a Swiss-Nepalese research team. The study will apply several qualitative research methods, including conflict analysis, actors mapping, semi-structured interviews, life histories, livelihood trajectories, critical incident analysis). The expected outcomes will be highly significant for policy makers and development practitioners in Nepal by providing in-depth knowledge on the dynamics and structures of local livelihoods in the process of political transformation.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Publications

Publication
Making territory: War, post-war and the entangled scales of contested forest governance in mid-Western Nepal
Byrne Sarah, Nightingale Andrea, Korf Benedikt (2016), Making territory: War, post-war and the entangled scales of contested forest governance in mid-Western Nepal, in Development and Change, 47(6), 1269-1293.
Constructing legitimacy in post-war transition: The return of ‘normal’ politics in Nepal and Sri Lanka?
Byrne Sarah, Klem Bart (2015), Constructing legitimacy in post-war transition: The return of ‘normal’ politics in Nepal and Sri Lanka?, in Geoforum, 66, 224-233.
A compromising consensus? Legitimising local government in post-conflict Nepal
Byrne Sarah (2014), A compromising consensus? Legitimising local government in post-conflict Nepal, in International Development Planning Review, 36(4), 435-453.
Kompromisse und Tricks: die Kommunalpolitik in Nepals "Übergangsphase"
Byrne Sarah (2012), Kompromisse und Tricks: die Kommunalpolitik in Nepals "Übergangsphase", in Südasien, 32(3-4), n.a..
So nah, so fern: Marginalisierte Magar
Kern Alice (2012), So nah, so fern: Marginalisierte Magar, in Südasien, 32(3-4), n.a..
Resources, violence and the telluric geographies of small wars
Korf Benedikt (2011), Resources, violence and the telluric geographies of small wars, in Progress in Human Geography, 31(3), 385-399.
The Geography of Warscape
Korf Benedikt, Hagmann Tobias, Engeler Michelle (2010), The Geography of Warscape, in Third World Quarterly, 31(3), 385-399.
‘From our side the rules are followed’: Authorising bureaucracy in Nepal’s ‘permanent transition.’
Byrne Sarah, ‘From our side the rules are followed’: Authorising bureaucracy in Nepal’s ‘permanent transition.’, in Modern Asian Studies.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
South Asia Coordination Office, NCCR North South Nepal (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation Nepal (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel
University of Gothenburg, School of Global Studies Swaziland (Africa)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Annual Conference of the Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries Talk given at a conference Being prepared for the worst: risk management in development research 20.11.2015 Berne, Switzerland Byrne Sarah;
Property and Citizenship in Developing Societies Talk given at a conference Competing territorialities, competing authorities: claiming a contested forest in mid-Western Nepal 28.05.2013 Copenhagen, Denmark Byrne Sarah; Korf Benedikt;
Producing legitimacy: governance against the odds Talk given at a conference Constructing legitimacy in post-war transition: the return of 'normal' politics in Nepal and Sri Lanka 22.04.2013 Cambridge, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Byrne Sarah;
22nd European Conference on South Asia Studies Talk given at a conference Compromising stateness in Nepal's postconflict transition 25.07.2012 Lisbon, Portugal Byrne Sarah;
Nepal Study Day of the British-Nepal Academic Council Talk given at a conference Compromising stateness in Nepal's postconflict transition 19.04.2012 Reading, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Byrne Sarah;
Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference 2011 Talk given at a conference The Production and Performance of Professional Identities: Shifting from development practitioner to development academic 31.08.2011 London, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Byrne Sarah;
Democracy, Governance and Development: beyond the institutional, negotiating the political? Talk given at a conference Negotiating Development: Nepalese Community Forest User Groups' Resistance and Compromise during the Maoist conflict 27.06.2011 Oxford, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Byrne Sarah;
Annual Conference of the Association of American Geographers Talk given at a conference Warlord geographies between exortist oligopolies and monopolies of protection 12.04.2011 Seattle, United States of America Korf Benedikt;
21st European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies Talk given at a conference Local governance practice in Nepal: experiences in community forest user groups governance and local development planning 26.07.2010 Bonn, Germany Byrne Sarah;
Theoretical and Methodological Approaches to the Study of Local Politics in Developing Countries Talk given at a conference A conceptual framework for thinking about the interplay of Naya Satta and Purano Satta with Livelihood Strategies in Nepal's Mid-Western Hills during and after the Maoist insurgency 05.05.2010 Roskilde, Denmark Byrne Sarah;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Climate Change and Political Violence: Environmental Change in Contested Political Contexts Workshop 12.03.2012 Edinburgh, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Korf Benedikt; Byrne Sarah;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Lost in Translation? Negotiating Local Governance in Nepal 11.07.2013 Birendranagar, Surkhet, Nepal
Lost in Translation? Negotiating Local Governance in Nepal 09.07.2013 Kathmandu, Nepal

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
123181 Negotiating rural development in South Asia's periphery 01.02.2009 ProDoc
149183 Living with violence II: Rural livelihoods and the struggle for territory in post-war Sri Lanka 01.11.2013 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

The proposed research builds on a growing interdisciplinary interest in investigating the precarious conditions of everyday life in highly politicized settings of civil war, armed rebellion and insurgency. The proposed research intends to investigate the differentiated impacts of different forms of violence, coercion and control on rural livelihoods in Mid-Western Nepal during and after the People’s War that recently ended in a comprehensive peace agreement in November 2006. It will study how different social groups and individuals have navigated through the difficult social and political terrain that characterized rural Nepal during this period. The focus will be on a retrospective analysis of livelihood strategies during the ongoing People’s War, but attention will also be given to the precarious political transformation after the ceasefire agreement. In developing a fine-grained analysis of local livelihood strategies and the broader political dynamics, this study will provide a socially and spatially differentiated analysis of the impact of the Maoist insurgency and the current political transformation process on rural livelihoods in Nepal. Our expectation is that violence in its different guises does not only produce destructive and disempowering impacts for all actors, but also induces social and political transformation and provides opportunities for certain groups and individuals while hampering or restraining others. We also expect that the complex entanglement of violence, fear and vulnerability that penetrate rural livelihoods partly preceded the Maoist insurgency in the form of structural violence.Field research will be conducted in two study sites in Mid-Western Nepal. Three core concepts guide the investigation: (1) governable spaces describe the social figurations of powerful actor groups, their agendas, practices and the arenas where these practices play out. (2) Social navigation delimits the spaces for rural households to guide their livelihoods through the precarious terrain of governable spaces. (3) Livelihood arenas and arenas of violence become intertwined, thereby creating spaces of vulnerability and opportunity for different actors. The research is guided by five hypotheses: first, governable spaces are expected to be highly malleable and spatially differentiated. Second, the multiplicity of rules and rulers creates spatially and temporally dynamic configurations that provide room for social navigation for people living in rural communities. Third, these spaces for social navigation provide opportunities and threats, thereby forging ambivalent spaces of vulnerability. Fourth, spaces for navigation are likely to differ between various individuals in a given place and time, thereby re-forging social relations in rural communities. Fifth, as many people fled from their rural villages to urban areas, where they now live as internally displaced persons (IDPs), social relations with those who stayed in the rural areas has forged new multi-local networks. Field work is organized in three phases and different work packages and is implemented by a Swiss-Nepalese research team. The study will apply several qualitative research methods, including conflict analysis, actors mapping, semi-structured interviews, life histories, livelihood trajectories, critical incident analysis. The research is expected to inform Nepalese policy makers and international donors on the impact of the political transformation on rural livelihoods - an information that is essential for designing appropriate rural development policies and programmes that support political transformation and peace building in Nepal.
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