Home Institution

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Publication Date

Fall 2018

Program Name

Nepal: Development and Social Change


The 1990 Nepali Constitution opened up opportunities for many forms of activism, and identity groups thus began solidifying to advocate for social change and justice (Karki 2012). After the Nepali Supreme Court ruling in 2007, Nepal became one of the first countries to offer a third gender category “Other,” becoming a leader for human rights in South Asia and the world (Mahato 2017). As Coyle and Boyce (2013) point out, there is little research on LGBTI individuals in Nepal. Furthermore, they advocate for more research and closer work with gender and sexual minority individuals in Nepal.

This research attempts to increase understanding of Nepali LGBTI people’s lived realities and daily experiences, along with the language and terms used by these individuals and in government legislation. To do so, I conducted 17 semi-structured interviews with LGBTI individuals and activists across Nepal. Relying on queer phenomenology theories (Ahmed 2006) and queer linguistic methodologies (Motschenbacher 2013), I analyze how these individuals understand their identities and desires, how they must grapple with prevailing heteronormative discourses in Nepal, and how gender and sexuality are conceived of in Nepal and in the Nepali language. Additionally, I examine how global north terminology (e.g. LGBTI, transgender) has simultaneously helped and hindered activist efforts in Nepal. Incorporating Zimman and Hall (2009), I also draw on participants’ discussion of body to understand the relationship among linguistic practice, identity, and space.


Asian Studies | East Asian Languages and Societies | Gender and Sexuality | History of Gender | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Linguistics | Politics and Social Change | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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