‘It’s All About Education’: Middle-class, High-caste Women’s Aspirations of Choice, Freedom and Modernity in Urban Nepal

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Discourses of development are highly influential in Nepal, entwining with sets of social relations and local history to form a nationally shared vision known as bikas (development). This article explores how specific sets of (universalist and local) discourses of development and gender articulate in the subjectivities of young, middle-class, high-caste women in Kathmandu as they negotiate transitions to adulthood. Drawing on ethnographic research, the article highlights how education has afforded young women new possibilities and prompted new aspirations compared to earlier generations, and words such as ‘choice’ and ‘freedom’ figure prominently in their discussions of aspirations. However, generational differences in understanding how these dreams fit in women’s lives are often expressed in intergenerational tension around marriage. The article highlights how different discourses fuse in ways relational to people’s social locations, including along junctures of class, caste, gender and generation, arguing for attention to intersectionality in understanding the circulation of discourses of development and modernity in Nepal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-453
Number of pages20
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Anthropology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research for this work was supported by the University of Adelaide under the George Fraser Scholarship. Thanks to my participants for their generous participation and my research assistants for their excellent translating skills and assistance. Special thanks to Hannah Bulloch for her wonderful support. Thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and useful suggestions and all who provided feedback on this paper at various stages.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Australian National University.


  • Development
  • Education
  • Marriage
  • Middle-class
  • Modernity
  • Nepal
  • Women


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