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Dalit Women’s Struggle for Dignity Through a Charismatic Healing Movement: Caste, Gender, and Religion in Nepal

BK, Amar B (2022) Dalit Women’s Struggle for Dignity Through a Charismatic Healing Movement: Caste, Gender, and Religion in Nepal. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In this dissertation, I examine Dalit (known as low caste or untouchable) women’s participation in a relatively new charismatic healing movement, called Sachchai, in the Pokhara region of central Nepal. The Sachchai movement emerged rapidly after the country’s political revolution of 2006 and became widely popular among women, especially Dalit women. Although Dalit women participate in Sachchai to ameliorate their suffering, illness, and other everyday problems, they also claim that they realize empowerment, equality, and dignity through the movement. Drawing mainly on the ideas of radical egalitarianism, these women criticize caste hierarchy and gender-based violence and discriminations and demand equality and dignity. The central goal of my dissertation, thus, is to explain why a charismatic healing movement like Sachchai has become an effective place for Dalit women to embody and perform a gendered and caste politics of personal and collective dignity.

I found that Dalit women’s continued experience of powerlessness, inequality, violence, and humiliation, based mainly on gender and caste, is inherently part of their social suffering and physical illnesses. Therefore, for them, to heal is to feel confident, empowered, and equal. Dalit women in Sachchai seek to learn how to speak and become eloquent public speakers and articulate orators. They are taught to be strong, bold, and fearless so that they can defeat evil spirits; spirits who are believed to possess and hurt them when they become weak, fearful, and docile and inarticulate. They also learn how to respect each other and perform respect in ritualized forms to give it social significance. They do this through formalized greetings, terms of address, and by honoring each other with public recognition and symbolic gifts. The main goal of the dissertation is to understand discrimination and empowerment in Nepal, in the city of Pokhara, and in families by analyzing Dalit women’s stories of suffering and humiliation. The stories I present reveal that the state, society and the institution of the patriarchal family have largely failed to fulfil women’s desires to be more equal, to live with greater dignity, and to live without discrimination and violence.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
BK, Amar Babb60@pitt.eduabb600000-0002-5936-5069
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairAlter, Joseph
Committee MemberConstable,
Committee MemberHayden, Robert
Committee MemberBamyeh,
Date: 15 June 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 March 2022
Approval Date: 15 June 2022
Submission Date: 4 April 2022
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 215
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: caste humiliation, social suffering, caste oppression, divine agency, public speaking
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2022 00:20
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2022 00:20


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