Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Emergence of a Mongol Race in Nepal



The Emergence of a Mongol Race in Nepal


Nepal’s 80% of the population are Mongols, who are the country’s indigenous peoples. Nepalese belong to Chineses' group. They just look like


Chinese. China's rise will bring all the brothers together. Celebrate Maoist victory in Nepal. Throw away the Hindu trash.

The Emergence of a Mongol Race in Nepal

Susan Hangen
Ramapo C

Race is a highly malleable framework of identity, and it should be understood in relation to particular times, places and processes. Usually race is imposed upon marginalized groups by powerful elites, rather than initiated by those groups. Although race has typically been mobilized to justify and uphold social inequality, recently in Nepal race was used in a political movement to oppose those in power.

In Nepal, race was never used by the state to understand or classify citizens. This challenges many scholars’ assumptions that race is always hegemonic. The Nepalis who identified themselves as a race were rejecting rather than replicating the dominant ways in which they had been classified. This challenges the assumption that marginalized groups are required to speak in the language of the powerful to gain recognition and change their position in society.

The Politics of Identity

During the 1990s, some ethnic groups in Nepal—including Gurungs, Magars, Rais, Limbus and Sherpas—began asserting that they all belong to a Mongol race. Previously, each of these groups was primarily identified as belonging to a jati, a term that means both a caste and ethnic group. Their adoption of this racial identity was inspired by the platform of a small political party called the Mongol National Organization (MNO), which sought to unite and mobilize these social and ethnically diverse people, in part to make major political changes that would increase their social, economic and political power.

The MNO argued that Nepal’s linguistically and culturally diverse population is composed of two racial groups, the Aryans, who are caste Hindus, and the Mongols, who are the country’s indigenous peoples: while the Aryans form only 20% of the population, goes the argument, they dominate the state and oppress

the Mongols, who comprise 80% of the population. The MNO’s presentation of Nepal’s population in racial terms was initially unfamiliar to people in the area of rural east Nepal that became the party’s stronghold; as many people remarked, “before the MNO came here, we did not know we were Mongol.”

A racial identity was not imposed upon the people that the MNO sought to unite as Mongols. The MNO selected race over more dominant forms of identity circulating in Nepal. What made race, rather than some other form of identity, salient for this political party to promote? What can we learn from this case about when and why the process of racial identification might appear to be an effective political strategy for groups of people seeking recognition?

History of Race in Nepal

In order to understand how deploying race appeared to be an effective political strategy, it is important to examine how race was discussed in Nepal. The racial labels that the MNO adopted were first transmitted in Nepal through social science writings. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Western scholars began using the terms Mongols and Aryan, which hail from 18th and 19th century ethnology, to describe Nepal’s population.

This “scientific” perspective connected the numerous groups of people in Nepal to two of several racial divisions that purportedly exist throughout the world. These racial concepts were later adopted in social science textbooks used in college and grade schools; public education expanded in the 1960s and educated Nepalis gained some familiarity with this construction of race. Nepali social scientists also used these racial terms to describe their country’s population in their scholarly writings.

Race also was known in Nepal in terms of the “martial races” that British colonizers in India developed to justify recruiting particular ethnic groups into its army. Many of the ethnic groups that the MNO identifies as Mongols were labeled martial races by the British and targeted as prime candidates for recruitment.

Despite the inclusion of racial ideas in Nepali social science discourse and the circulation of the martial race concept, race was not part of the everyday vocabulary of identity in Nepal until very recently. People did not refer to themselves with these racial terms, which remained an arcane kind of knowledge, detached from how people viewed themselves and their fellow citizens. Although race was an authoritative discourse, backed by social science, it never became a hegemonic system of classification that was accepted as a natural and inevitable way of viewing Nepal’s population. In large part, this was because the Nepali state used the categories of caste, language, religion and ethnicity rather than race in its efforts to classify its citizens.

Rejecting State Policy, Seeking International Attention
What did it mean for the MNO to appropriate these racial concepts? Because the state had not used race, the MNO’s adoption of race had oppositional meanings. By identifying as Mongols, the MNO and its supporters explicitly opposed the state’s categorization of their people as castes or ethnic groups. The MNO invoked the scientific authority associated with race as a way of rejecting the state’s classification system.

The MNO also believed that adopting a racial identity would help them to bring international attention to their political cause. Race appealed to the MNO as a global language of identity. As presented in social scientific discourse, race is conceived as a universal framework for understanding human diversity, encompassing the entire world’s population. By using the term Mongol, the MNO transformed the people they sought to mobilize from fragmented and obscure ethnic groups into a united and globally recognized race. The MNO argued that Nepal’s Mongols were connected to Mongols throughout the rest of the world who would be sympathetic to their plight. Like the concept of indigenous peoples, race may increasingly serve as a framework through which minorities make political claims, to the extent that it is acknowledged and validated through international institutions like the UN. Thus international ef-forts to expunge racism may reinforce the salience of race as an identity.

Ironically, outside Nepal, the term Mongol continues to primarily signify citizens of Mongolia rather than members of a racial group. For most in the world, the use of Mongol as a racial term sounds antiquated. Thus the MNO’s appeal to its fellow Mongols is unlikely to be heard or understood.

Note: Susan Hangen is the author of “Race and the Politics of Identity in Nepal” published in Ethnology 44(1):49–64 on which this commentary is based.

The Mongol National Organization flag represents a political party in Nepal that sought to unite and mobilize diverse castes and ethnic groups as a Mongol race to rally political changes.


Related link: http://www.aaanet.org/press/an/hangen.html

20 comments:

Schlarg said...

*sigh* Why don't the Chinese build them their own schools?

Uncool Kid said...

Why is everyone up their asses trying to divide people. We all are equal, we all are Nepalese. Forget the caste system, forget the Mongoloid or Aryan. Also, the real indigenous group is not Mongolian, they are the Tharus and Kiratis and other minorities. Which is why this great country of ours is so beautiful. We need to unite, we are Nepalese.

nana said...

Not Chinese we are diverse effin stupid article

thapa mnoz said...

First we are Nepalese...

thapa mnoz said...

First we are Nepalese...

Dinesh Lama said...

I also do have similar thoughts, but its not necessary to be combined with china, although it could be good for country people. As i've seen till now since all the leaders are only brahmins, they haven't done anything for county and country people, just sucking nepali peoples blood. This race shuld be stopped to control the government by any mean. But as i have understood their is only one way, and it is total inhilation of brahmin races from nepal by making some deal with china during next world war, else this country will always be like this only.

Bidhan Chhetri said...

These people wanted nepal to be a part of china if the people divide among themselves then its easy for the chinese to establish their power as they did it in tibet so be careful stay one and stronger one day the time will come to be nepalless,identityless homeless,landless and many more i request the politicians not play a dirty time of castes, tribes and races due to the motherfuckers like u innocent and poor people suffer a lot i know making mno is a part of making money not to bring any political changes in the country once the leaders of mno makes money as they wanted then they gonna go and hibernate we poor and innocent would be fighting with eachother n we will have to suck our own dick no body is truth, honest, humble towards the people and country becareful

Bidhan Chhetri said...

Make urself a nation a leader n a public do what u can do for the development of nation and its people we should not follow anyone we should not divide we learn to leave united these people wanted to take an advantage of these non sense and stupid ideology of castes, races and tribes

Bidhan Chhetri said...

Hello bro do u think making a deal to china is a best idea do u want nepal to be a part of china you r wrong bro nobody has its solution how cleaver you r man do u think can nepal servive the world war a nuclear war which will devasticate the whole world forget about the nepal will turn into ashes

Shati sabitri said...

Dr. Jagman Gurung says if you say yourself Mangolian you are not nepali but forigner because Mangolian belongs to china tibet and mangolia

Unknown said...

Does tharu blongs to mongolian

Gore Lama said...

As to late coming mongol in nepal. Now khas aryan baun chhetri bidedhi janjati adhiwasi trouble because MNO needs to be mongol race

Unknown said...

I appreciate 100%
😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

Unknown said...

Ya sir 100% sahi bhannu bhayo jai mongol....

Gore Lama said...

What is your Race?

Gore Lama said...

Satya ko zeet hunchha

Gore Lama said...

Jai mongol

MATRIKA MULOHANG KIRANT said...

Wow you are the great and you have great though ms. susan hangen ,I've really appreciate for your positive sense ,actually most of corruption leadership in our Nepal ,that's why still nothing do it improve into local society or development etc ,

MATRIKA MULOHANG KIRANT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MATRIKA MULOHANG KIRANT said...


We are pure indigenous people in This country you know ? we are not a refugee migrated people like you ,so please remain first before talk anything here !