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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

The Making of a “Development Caste”: A Social History of Development Initiatives in Nepal (c. 1935–1990)

Responsible for the doctoral project: Dr. Sara Elmer
Tutor:Prof. Dr. Harald Fischer-Tiné

Launch of the "Back-to-the-Village-National-Campaign" December 1967 (Source: Bikasunmukh Nepal, Dec/Jan 1967/68)


Throughout the past sixty years, Nepal has been highly exposed to development initiatives and foreign aid. ‘Development’ not only became a powerful industry but also a cornerstone of the nation building process. The doctoral thesis looks back at the roots of development planning and takes the discourses around as well as the actors behind under scrutiny.

Going beyond the notion of development as an invention of the ‘white man’, it mainly focuses on the role of Nepalese government and civil society actors. During the first decades of foreign aid intervention – this is the central hypothesis —, ‘development’ became a new social category and an efficient mean of gaining status. Through the analysis and comparison of case studies from the fields of social reforms, education and rural development, the thesis questions the emergence of an elite based ‘development caste’ and examines its implications within the Nepalese society.

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