Globalization and the Politics of Identity in Nepal

Can globalization and the identity politics co-exist in Nepal in light of the fact that both are not neutral concept? It is generally observed that globalization is largely driven by technological and economic processes, while identity is related to

June 23, 2016, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol:09,No. 23, June 24,2016 (Ashad10,2073)

Globalization is a contested terrain in terms of dynamics and consequences. The processes of globalization constantly interact with processes of identification. Society has to deal with this uneasy balance between the inevitability of globalization and the paradoxical addressing of identity.

Globalization is a contested terrain in terms of dynamics and consequences.  But surely the world is getting closer to us as people around the world have been more and more interconnected through the exchange of goods, services, means of production (labour, capital), information, knowledge, culture and other forms of interaction.

Over the last two decades, the pace of this global integration has become much faster and dramatic because of advancements in technology, communications, internet, transport and trade. Globalization has brought in new opportunities, but it has not involved all people to the same extent. The large majority of global transaction has occurred between people in the north in their access to markets for goods, capital and technology. While globalization is a catalyst for and a consequence of human progress, it is also a messy process that requires adjustment and creates significant challenges and problems.

Globalization and economic liberalization have brought challenges like growing inequality across and within nations, volatility in financial market, environmental deteriorations and inequitable access to global governance. 

There is also a question about whether the social costs are worth the economic gains from foreign products, technologies and investments. Clearly, there are winners and losers of globalization with uneven and contradictory impacts. One might however argue that the short-term winners and losers of globalization are not necessarily the same as the people that experience long term gains and losses.

In these arguments and counter-arguments of globalization, where do we locate the notion of the ‘self’ that arguably loses its significance?  What is the significance of 'my identity and me' when we are moving towards “the world and us”?Is the impact of globalization contradictory that on the one hand it works towards the global unification while on the other hand it is associated with destruction of local identities? These questions are relevant for post conflict Nepal where ethnicity is one of the dominant agendas in the present discourse of restructuring Nepali state.

Politics in the 1990s has to a great extent meant identity politics with the recent growth of political movements in many societies in all continents of seeking to strengthen the collective sense of uniqueness, often targeting globalization processes, which are seen as a threat to local distinctiveness and self-determination. This new political scene, difficult to fit into the old left–right divide, comes in many flavours: some are separatist nationalist movements; some represent historically oppressed minorities which demand equal rights; some are dominant groups trying to prevent minorities from gaining access to national resources; some are religious, some are ethnic, and some are regional. 

Can globalization and the identity politics co-exist in Nepal in light of the fact that both are not neutral concept? It is generally observed that globalization is largely driven by technological and economic processes, while identity is related to less visible aspects of life, such as self-image, self-esteem and individuality. But both are multidimensional process. The boundaries are extremely flexible. You are what you feel yourself. Both approaches need to be understood in their respective political and historical contexts.

The challenge is to build national identity in the face of a changing global identity in Nepal.  But, the question is whether we are prepared to put the economy first as a common agenda and the politics of identity behind to support economic agenda? There is more politics and less economy in Nepal. No matter how successful the various social groups in advancing their identity issues, these will be not successful without a stable broad based economy side by side taking full advantage of technology and emerging economies. Society has to deal with this uneasy balance between the inevitability of globalization and the paradoxical addressing of identity. 

It is equally important that supports are needed for improvements in internal infrastructure and governance to improve the competitiveness of rural produce, access to goods, services and markets, employment prospects and better mobility between rural and urban areas. Support to emerging small and medium towns is important that could potentially bridge rural-urban divide in order to tap benefits from two emerging economies of our neighbors, and the rest of the world.We need to keep our house in order so that we can take the advantage of the opportunities of globalization and make globalization and identity politics compatible.

Author: Dr. Prabin Manandhar is an expert of international development. Currently, he is working as Country Director of The Lutheran World Federation. He is the Chair of the Association of International NGOs in Nepal (AIN). He is also a visiting faculty at the Kathmandu University. He can be reached at prabin.manandhar11@gmail.com

Dr. Prabin Manandhar

Dr. Prabin Manandhar

Dr. Manandhar is an expert of international development. Currently, he is working as Country Director of The Lutheran World Federation. He is the Former Chair of the Association of International NGOs in Nepal (AIN). He is also a visiting faculty at the Ka

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