Representations of Dumī Rāī Culture: A Study of the Ethnic Magazine ISILIM


Chhetri Prem

Supervision: Martin Gaenszle

Nepal is a multi-linguistic, multi-cultural and multi-religious country, but until 1990 there was a party-less pañcāyat system in Nepal which restricted democratic and civil rights. With its slogan ‘ek bhāṣā, ek dharma, ek bheśa, ek deśa’ (“one language, one religion, one dress, one nation”) the state promoted Nepal as a relatively homogeneous nation. Because of censurship it was not easy for marginalized ethnic groups to publish their own magazines promoting their distinct language, culture, tradition and history.

The new constitution that was adopted after the people’s movement of 1990 declared Nepal as a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, independent, democratic, indivisible, sovereign Hindu and constitutional monarchial kingdom. Nepali remained the official national language (rāṣṭra bhāṣā) and all the other languages spoken as the mother tongue by different ethnic and caste groups were declared as Nepal’s ”languages of the nation” (rāṣtrya bhāṣā). The constitution also opened the door for freedom of expression in Nepal. This was a great opportunity for many marginalized groups to write on their culture, ritual tradition, language and history. Many of the ethnic groups of Nepal started to publish their own magazines to represent their cultural heritage. ISILIM, a biannual magazine of the Dumī Rāī, is one such ethnic magazine. It is in publication since 1999 and documents the distinct identity of the Dumī Rāī, one of the ethnic groups of east Nepal.

This thesis is a qualitative study of the ISLIM magazine. Following the method of textual interpretation and discourse analysis, I will pursue the question how the Dumī Rāī construct and promote their view of culture through the making and publication of ISILIM.