Editor's Introduction: All the World Is Global,
But Some Places Are More Global Than Others


Deborah Wyrick

North Carolina State University, Raleigh NC

Copyright © 2002 by Deborah Wyrick, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.

  1. Here's a short quiz. What country is being described by these pieces of information?
    --armed rebels are waging war against the government
    --over the last six years, approximately 5,000 people have died in the conflict
    --peace talks have broken down, and the death toll has risen dramatically on both sides
    --the country shares a long, porous border with its larger neighbor, which provides escape and resupply routes for the rebels
    --the rebels are suspected participants in a transnational confederation of extremist groups
    --the government is operating under emergency rule, which gives military forces potentially unlimited power
    --the country's economy, heavily invested in tourism, has been crippled
    --approximately 100,000 displaced people remain in refugee camps

  2. Those of us in North America and those of us who receive regular cable news broadcasts from U.S.-owned networks might answer 'Afghanistan,' or 'Pakistan,' perhaps 'Palestine' or 'Israel.' Once the United States declared "war on terror" after the events of September 11, 2001, news media have located terror, and terrorists, and war, first in Afghanistan and more recently in the Middle East. (The murky U.S. involvement in the Philippines has received very little news coverage.) Reportage about serious conflicts -- which may or may not be "terrorist" in nature -- in Africa, South America, Europe, and elsewhere in Asia has evaporated; the bellicose global village has shrunk to desolate corners of the globe breeding direct threats to U.S. economic and political interests. A manichean vision of the world that uses axes of evil as lines of sight ends up being both monocular and myopic.

  3. So perhaps we need a few more clues.
    --the country is poor, literacy rates are low, and human rights are routinely violated
    --the rebels call their insurgency a 'People's War'
    --the country is landlocked, and it shares its long non-porous border with a country even bigger than that with which it shares its porous border
    --people at the very highest levels of government have been murdered

  4. If this quiz had been given in early June of 2001, even geographically challenged Americans might have known the answer. At that time, U.S. news gave considerable play to the palace massacre in Nepal (the answer to our quiz), when Crown Prince Dipendra shot dead his father, King Birendra, and most other members of the royal family before killing himself, evidently because his parents disapproved of his girlfriend. This bizarre royal murder mystery was replete with cable-TV-worthy elements like a lone celebrity gunman, thwarted love, and exotic tidbits (for instance, that many Nepalese believe the king to be an incarnation of Vishnu, and that the killer-Crown Prince became the official king for three days, even though he was a comatose dei-regi-pari-matricide). But few viewers or readers were informed that Nepal was in the midst of violent internal strife extending far beyond the royal household. Since 1996, when a short-lived Communist Government lost power, self-proclaimed Maoist freedom fighters have been attempting to overthrow the constitutional monarchy of the world's only Hindu kingdom. The struggle continues to this day, and the death toll is rising precipitously.

  5. Here at Jouvert, our awareness of current events in Nepal has increased as we have worked to prepare "The People of Shangri-La" for publication. This collaborative project among Manjul, one of Nepal's premiere poets, M. M. Thakur, one of India's leading translators, Susan Simone, a documentary photographer from North Carolina, and Richard Whisnant, a videographer/professor at the University of North Carolina, looks at the lives of 'ordinary' Kathmandu residents from a variety of artistic perspectives. One of the many interesting aspects of this project is the way it complicates common notions of the 'gaze': Manjul wrote his poems in response to Susan Simone's photographs, availing himself of an outsider's view of his own country; Ms. Simone then, partially in response to his poems and to the process of translations, recomposed her photographs into composite digital images; Richard Whisnant combined the photographs with his own video 'footage,' with Manjul contributing music as well as readings. Studying these images and words invites creation of more stories, more perspectives, especially in relation to current events in Nepal. Does the porter ever carry supplies to the insurgents? Do the women in their field feel secure about their right to work and live on their land?

  6. Inspired by Mao Zedong, the rebels have won over many rural Nepalese with promises of land reform, an issue rooted in centuries of royal 'gifts' of land to military personnel and to court favorites, who then extracted revenue from the peasants who worked the fields. The rebels' transborder movements into the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal have disturbed both the Nepalese and the Indian governments (see Kanchan), the former accusing the latter of harboring and arming the guerrillas, the latter worrying that the Maoists' alliance with Indian insurgent groups adds a further element of destabilization to a nation already preoccupied with the Kashmir dispute, with nuclear tensions, and with its own internal horrors, such as the recent massacres in Gujurat.

    The areas in pink relief indicate high concentrations of Maoist rebels.

  7. According to C. B. Khanduri, the Maoists "seized the opportunity provided by the Royal massacre to bring to the fore their deepening distrust of the present Government's ability to handle Palace Security, run a smooth administration or even tell the public details of the Royal homicide" ("Nepal After the Regicide"). They increased attacks against police posts and other 'official' locations as well as stepping up denunciations of government corruption and ineffectiveness. They also pointed the finger at India: rebel leader Baburam Bhattarai accused "Indian colonialism" of trying to turn Nepal into a client-state like Bhutan (an accusation sharpened by Nepal's huge Bhutanese refugee problem) and charged India with conspiring with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to kill the royal family because King Birendra had been "soft to China" (qtd. in Joseph). The events of September 11, 2001, gave the Government of Nepal a new vocabulary; the Maoists are now "terrorists" and the fight against them is a "war on terror" (see "Counter-Revolutionary Moves In Nepal" and Khanduri, "Nepal on War Footing"). Nepal has even created a 'Terrorist Most Wanted List' similar to that set up by the FBI (U.S.) for people believed to be involved in the September 11th attacks. Nonetheless, peace talks and a temporary ceasefire were attempted; these failed in November of 2001, and King Gyanendra (King Birendra's brother, Prince Dipendra's uncle) declared a state of national emergency.

  8. Since the end of April, the Nepalese government claims to have killed approximately 400 rebels in the eastern part of the kingdom; in the last few days, it has launched a major offensive in Western Nepal that, reports The Times of India, has eliminated 550 insurgents ("550 Maoist rebels"). Nonetheless, the Maoist fighters show no sign of stopping their efforts. According to Catherine Philips, writing for The Times of London, the insurgents will engage in gun battles, sustaining huge losses, until the government forces run out of ammunition -- allowing the Maoists to storm the government position, kill remaining soldiers, confiscate weapons, and melt back into the mountains. Like the notoriously tight-lipped 'detainees' in Guantanamo Bay, the Maoist rebels believe that secrecy is crucial to their continued existence and eventual success -- to the extent that they "have been known to decapitate fallen comrades and carry the heads back to their mountain hideouts to avoid identification" (Philips).

  9. Today (May 7, 2002), as I finish this editorial, Nepali Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has arrived in Washington, D.C., in order to seek U.S. aid in Nepal's "fight against terrorism" (Sharma). The visit is totally eclipsed (on U.S. news) by the simultaneous visit of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but Prime Minister Deuba is carrying the hopes of his small corner of the world, although not of the anti-government opposition and its supporters. An editorial in The Kathmandu Post notes that Nepal's low global profile and its bad human rights record may compromise U.S. (and British, as Deuba will visit Prime Minister Tony Blair after he has met with President Bush) aid: "But if Deuba indeed succeeds in securing international support to keep up the ongoing campaign against terrorism or in favour of peace, apart from further help for the rebuilding of ravaged infrastructure, that will be considered a major achievement" ("Deuba's US, UK trip").

  10. It certainly will. The United States and its allies may have no room on their radar for the troubles in Nepal, unless they spill over the border in a way that compromises the uneasy status quo between India and Pakistan and, thus, interferes with the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. Or unless they leak over the northern border and upset China. Such ripple effects have happened before.

  11. As I've been looking into intersections between Nepal's current and past history, I've kept being reminded of other articles we've been preparing for this issue. Certainly, John Hickman and Sarah Bartlett's study of a 'New Delhi bias' in news reporting on Kashmir and Sri Lanka has warned me against relying primarily on wire-service accounts, as well as alerting me to the implications of word-choice when one is describing insurgency. The historical intersections themselves take on added resonance when I think about how both Kevin Cryderman and Andrew Armstrong use the trope of the palimpsest to evoke the complex sedimentations of memory, imagination, violence, and history in the literary works they address (Faizal Deen's poetic memoir, Land Without Chocolate for Cryderman, Wilson Harris's Jonestown and Caryl Phillips' The Nature of Blood for Armstrong). In a related manner, Geetha Ganapathy-Doré examines the ghosts haunting characters and histories in her analysis of Michael Ondaatje's newest novel. All these essays excavate traces of historical, political, literary, and individual pasts that not only mark the present but also give intimations about the future.

  12. Nepal's layered history suggests that Western powers should not dismiss Nepal's present and future geopolitical significance too quickly. For example, the great Prithvi Narayan Shah (1743 - 75), who extended Gorkha domination throughout the Kathmandu Valley and beyond, armed his forces in India and tried unsuccessfully to enlist the help of the British East India Company. After consolidating his rule in 1769, he expelled all foreigners, and his successors challenged British trade throughout the Himalayas. When Nepal launched pillaging expeditions into Tibet, China sent a huge army to crush the Nepalese invaders, who had again appealed unsuccessfully for aid to the British East India Company.

  13. The hostilities between Nepal and Britain peaked in 1814, when the two countries engaged in a full-scale war. Like today's Maoist rebels, the Nepalese forces organized themselves as guerrilla bands, using the difficult terrain to their advantage while availing themselves of modern weaponry purchased primarily in India. British troops sustained extremely heavy losses before overwhelming the Nepalese military in 1816 and annexing a large amount of Nepalese territory. Britain turned to its former enemy during the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857, and Nepalese soldiers helped end the insurrection and consolidate formal British rule in India. Nepal was considered a Raj-friendly buffer state in the Great Game for Central Asia; after Indian Independence, Nepal was considered an India-friendly buffer state in that nation's 'cold war' with China. Today, China keeps a wary eye on Nepal, as over 10% of its population is Tibeto-Nepalese, and as peoples along Nepal's northern border are suspected of harboring anti-Chinese Tibetan nationalists.

  14. The layerings of Nepalese history extend to the royal massacres: at the end of the 18th century, Rana Bahadur Shah, who was exiled to India because his infatuation with his mistress interfered with his governance, was killed by his half-brother after he attempted to resume power; in 1845, Queen Lakshmidevi evidently arranged the Kot (palace armory) massacre of scores of nobles and high-ranking military commanders. Such repetitions do not seem at all farcical; tragedy is compounded by recurrence, and by ignorance of history. As Nepal's upheavals have often involved its more 'globally significant' neighbors and have had ramifications well beyond the subcontinent, it would behoove the West to pay at least some attention to the grave problems lacerating this relatively small country . . . not by subsuming it into the "war on terror" but by helping alleviate the endemic conditions that give rise to insurrection in the first place.

  15. In the above remarks, I've referred to some of the articles contained in this issue of Jouvert. In one way or another, this entire issue is linked to problems of globalization and its discontents. Mohammed Ben Jelloun, for instance, critiques current discourses about Islam, arguing for an 'Agonistic Islam' -- rooted in part within pre-Islamic Arabian cultural tradition -- that fosters genuine competition of ideas in the place of essentialism, reductive thinking, even uncritical toleration. Ibrahima Ndiaye studies Ama Ata Aidoo's latest novel, Changes, with a view to mapping the contested space-time terrain inhabited by contemporary Ghanaian women, women often caught between traditional expectations and the apparent promises offered by the country's efforts at achieving global modernity. Joy Mahabir's article on the calypsoes of David Rudder not only celebrates the inventive pleasures of Carnival; it also reminds us that to Rudder, as to many artists (including Manjul) in countries marginalized in the global economy, the rhythms of music and poetry form an "ideological language that can be used to engage in class struggle by conveying progressive ideas and inspiring progressive actions." In a complementary way, this issue's prose fiction addresses, among other things, how 'clashes of cultures' can disempower and displace those on the receiving end of the neocolonial big stick. Rick Talbot's "Total Bull and the Buffalo" presents a satirical narrative about the appropriation of North American Aboriginal culture, while Rawi Hage's short story, "Ahmad," follows an Egyptian student on his exterior and interior journey to the United States and back.

  16. I would like to thank all the contributors to this issue for their interesting and provocative pieces . . . and for their patience with the editing process. We are particularly pleased that this issue has taken a step forward toward mining the possibilities inherent in electronic publication. Richard Whisnant's video is a first for us, as is the inclusion of Nepali versions of Manjul's poems. We also appreciate the original art work supplied by Susan Simone and Rawi Hage, as well as the design talents of Rick Talbot and the photos taken by Joy Mahabir. And acknowledgments would not be complete without extending our gratitude to our book reviewers -- Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Pramod K. Nayar, Tapati Bharadwaj, Chimalum Nwankwo, David Buuck, Champa Patel, and Rini Bhattacharya Mehta.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bishop, Peter. The Myth of Shangri-La: Tibet, Travel Writing, and the Western Creation of Sacred Landscape. Berkeley: U of California P, 1989.

"Counter-Revolutionary Moves in Nepal." Revolutionary Worker #1148. April 28, 2002. http://rwor.org/A/V24/1148-1150/1148/nepal1148.htm

"Deuba's US, UK trip." The Kathmandu Post. May 7, 2002. http://www.nepalnews.com.np/contents/englishdaily/ktmpost/2002/may/may07/editorial.htm#1

"550 Maoist rebels killed in Nepal." The Times of India. May 5, 2002. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Articleshow.asp?art_id=8945828

Hopkirk, Peter. The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia. Kodansha International: 1994.

Joseph, Josy. "Maoist ideologue blames India, US for massacre." Redriff.com. June 6, 2001. http://www.rediff.com/news/2001/jun/06nep1.htm

Kanchan, L. "Maoist Insurgency and Indo-Nepal Border Relations." Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (India) January 19, 2002. http://www.ipcs.org/issues/newarticles/678-nep-kanchan.html

Khanduri, Chandra B. "Nepal after the Regicide: Maoist Threat Increases." Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (India) July 6, 2001. http://www.ipcs.org/issues/articles/516-nep-khanduri.html

---. "Nepal on War Footing." Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (India) February 23, 2002. http://www.ipcs.org/issues/700/706-nep-khanduri.html

Lak, Daniel. "Nepal's living Link with history." BBC News On-Line. June 14, 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/south_asia/newsid_1388000/1388481.stm

"Most Wanted Terrorists." Washington DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2001. http://www.fbi.gov/mostwant/terrorists/fugitives.htm

"Nepal: A Country Study." Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1991. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/nptoc.html

"Nepal Maoists tell of world plans." BBC News On-Line. July 28, 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/south_asia/newsid_1461000/1461630.stm

Philips, Catherine. "Nepal rebels bury peace hopes with their dead." The Times, London. May 4, 2002. Reprinted in The Statesman. May 5, 2002. http://www.thestatesman.net/page.news.php3?id=8805&type=World&theme=A

"Pictures of Maoist Rebels." Nepal World News. May 4, 2002. http://www.nepalnews.com.np/archive/2002/april/maoist.jpg

Sharma, Gopal. "Nepal PM seeks U.S. support for fight against rebels." Reuters Breaking News. May 5, 2002. http://asia.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml;jsessionid=OMQDFJ33FTK1QCRBAE0CFFAKEEATGIWD?type=topnews&StoryID=919298

"World Factbook: Nepal." Washington DC: CIA, U.S. Government, 2002. http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/np.html

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