So Far, So Near
N Manoharan
GLOBAL NEPALIS: RELIGION, CULTURE AND COMMUNITY IN A NEW AND OLD DIASPORA by David N. Gellner and Sondra L. Hausner Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2019, 580 pp., 1495
January 2019, volume 43, No 1

The term ‘diaspora’ is generally understood as a people belonging to one ethnic group originating from a place, but dispersed geographically. Though scattered, the diaspora groups usually tend to maintain relations with their place of origin and also with the other dispersed groups. Estimatedly, about 10 percent of human population live in diasporic situations (about 700 to 800 million). This is a huge number. Countries of origin have started looking at the diaspora communities as assets: economic, social, political, technological and so on. The concept of ‘soft power’ and its exercise has diaspora communities as one of the important dimensions. The issues surrounding the diaspora has given rise to a new field of study called ‘diaspora studies’. Though this genre emerged in the late 20th century, the significance of the field is evident from the establishment of numerous research centres and academic departments all over the world in the recent decade.

Nepali diaspora is one of the interesting diasporic communities in the world present in over 30 countries spread across all continents. It is the only community which is present in all SAARC countries. In this context, the book under review asks certain pertinent questions: ‘In diverse contexts to what extent do Nepalis reproduce their culture and pass it on to subsequent generations? How much of diaspora life is a response to social and political concerns derived from the homeland? What aspects of Nepali life and culture change?’

Edited by noted anthropologists David N. Gellner and Sondra L. Hausner of the University of Oxford, the book tries to answer all the above questions with contributions from 21 authors. The contributors use 18 detailed case studies extending in US, UK, India, Southeast Asia, West Asia and even the Pacific. It should be noted that each of the contributors is an expert in her/his own domain making the book highly scholarly.

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