Maoists at the Hearth
Everyday Life in Nepal's Civil WarUniversity of Pennsylvania Press The Ethnography of Political Violence
The Maoist insurgency in Nepal lasted from 1996 to 2006, and at the pinnacle of their armed success the Maoists controlled much of the countryside. Maoists at the Hearth, which is based on ethnographic research that commenced more than a decade before the escalation of the civil war in 2001, explores the daily life in a hill village in central Nepal, during the "People's War." From the everyday routines before the arrival of the Maoists in the late 1990s through the insurgency and its aftermath, this book examines the changing social relationships among fellow villagers and parties to the conflict.
War is not an interruption that suspends social processes. Life in the village focused as usual on social challenges, interpersonal relationships, and essential duties such as managing agricultural work, running households, and organizing development projects. But as Judith Pettigrew shows, social life, cultural practices, and routine activities are reshaped in uncertain and dangerous circumstances. The book considers how these activities were conducted under dramatically transformed conditions and discusses the challenges (and, sometimes, opportunities) that the villagers confronted.
By considering local spatial arrangements and their adaptation, Pettigrew explores people's reactions when they lost control of the personal, public, and sacred spaces of the village. A central consideration of Maoists at the Hearth is an exploration of how local social tensions were realized and renegotiated as people supported (and sometimes betrayed) each other and of how villager-Maoist relationships (and to a lesser extent villager-army relationships), which drew on a range of culturally patterned preexisting relationships, were reforged, transformed, or renegotiated in the context of the conflict and its aftermath.
—David N. Gellner
Chapter 1. The Village of Kwei Nasa in 1991−92
Chapter 2. No Place to Hide
Chapter 3. Return to Kwei Nasa
Chapter 4. Maoists in the House
Chapter 5. "Our Government Is the Maoists"
Chapter 6. "All We Need Is Peace": The People's Movement and Its Aftermath
Chapter 7. After Words
"Maoists at the Hearth is a vivid account of human creativity in dealing with the uncertainty and liminality of wartime and people's ingenuity in adapting to the most trying conditions. . . . An important contribution to the anthropology of war literature, to the study of civil conflicts around the world and Maoist movements in South Asia."—Social Anthropology
"Unpretentious and insightful, Maoists at the Hearth is the very best writing I have encountered on the impact of the Maoist movement in Nepal from the perspective of villagers. An incredible ethnography."—David Holmberg, Cornell University
"No other anthropologist of Nepal, whether foreign or Nepali, has returned so often and so devotedly to the same place throughout the course of the conflict. In doing so, [Judith Pettigrew] has gathered the material for a highly poignant and unique record of village Nepal. . . . Pettigrew's detailed and person-centered ethnographic description conveys lessons about the war that can perhaps be learned in no other way."—From the Foreword, by David N. Gellner
"In the space of six elegantly written chapters, which blend descriptions, events, facts and analyses, Pettigrew paints six scences of the locality, and of Nepal, at various stages of its revolutionary history."—European Bulletin of Himalayan Research
"Her anthropological approach to a context of political violence through the study of changes in routine tasks opens a fruitful path so far little explored, which will certainly attract the attention it deserves."—European Bulletin of Himalayan Research