KU News: Celebrate the Year of the Dragon with the KU Center for East Asian Studies

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Celebrate the Year of the Dragon with the KU Center for East Asian Studies

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) and partners will celebrate the Year of the Dragon for the Lunar New Year, a celebration of the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. The free, public Lunar New Year Festival will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 7 on the Lawrence campus.

 

Study: International organizations take oversimplified, ‘cultural essentialist’ approach to domestic violence in Nepal

LAWRENCE — Domestic violence is a problem throughout the world. To develop and support effective programs to address the issue, understandings about the problem and the strategies that are being used to address it must be grounded in knowledge of the local context. A new study from the University of Kansas has found that research reports, written or sponsored by international organizations, have often taken an over-simplified “cultural essentialist” approach to understanding domestic violence in Nepal.

 

 

Full stories below.

 

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Contact: LaGretia Copp, Center for East Asian Studies, 785-864-0307, [email protected], @KUEastAsia

Celebrate the Year of the Dragon with the KU Center for East Asian Studies

 

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) and partners will celebrate the Year of the Dragon for the Lunar New Year, a celebration of the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar.

 

The free, public Lunar New Year Festival will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Burge Union.

The Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in China and is widely celebrated in other East Asian countries. The Year of the Dragon is known for welcoming changes, creativity and a vision for prosperity.

 

“It would be great for the CEAS community to welcome the new year together and to nurture our hopes and dreams by turning the positive energy of the dragon into a source of our actions toward a healthy and prosperous year ahead,” said Akiko Takeyama, CEAS director.

Attendees will enjoy an evening of festivities and friendship to ring in the new year, including performances at 6:30 p.m. by Wanwan Cai from the Lawrence Art Center and at 7:15 p.m. by the KU Lion Dance club.

 

Games and family-friendly activities will include the red envelope giveaway and raffle, lantern-making, calligraphy lessons, bingo and ring toss. Participants can also sample a dumpling, scallion pancake fries and sushi while supplies last. The event also will feature a photo booth.

The red envelope giveaways and beverages are possible through donations from Pepsi, KU Bookstore, McLain’s Market Lawrence, Royal Crest Lanes, The Merc Coop and Toppers Pizza.

Event co-sponsors include Student Union Activities, the Chinese Student Association, Korean Student Association, Study Abroad & Global Engagement, Global Awareness Program, Asian and Asian-American Faculty & Staff Council and International Support Services.

 

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Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860, [email protected], @MikeKrings

Study: International organizations take oversimplified, ‘cultural essentialist’ approach to domestic violence in Nepal

 

LAWRENCE — Domestic violence is a problem throughout the world. To develop and support effective programs to address the issue, understandings about the problem and the strategies that are being used to address it must be grounded in knowledge of the local context. A new study from the University of Kansas has found that research reports, written or sponsored by international organizations, have often taken an over-simplified “cultural essentialist” approach to understanding domestic violence in Nepal.

 

At its heart, cultural essentialism includes ways of talking about a group that fail to recognize diversity within that group. When cultural essentialist framings of social problems are employed in discussions about low-income countries, they tend to portray the countries and the cultures within them through a deficit lens. This implies that relatively wealthy Western nations have all the answers while overlooking the ways practitioners and communities have long worked to address domestic violence within Nepal.

 

Claire Willey-Sthapit, assistant professor of social welfare at KU, led a study in which researchers analyzed 26 reports funded by diverse international development organizations studying domestic violence in Nepal over two decades. The analysis showed the works often framed violence as endemic to place and a as a central aspect of Nepali culture. That approach overlooks the strengths of those working to address the problem as well as the ways that recent trends and transnational political-economic contexts, such as technological changes, the media and increasing labor migration, impact domestic violence in Nepal.

 

Willey-Sthapit, who lived and worked in Nepal for almost four years and whose spouse is Nepali, has a deep connection to the South Asian nation. As a country designated “least-developed” by the United Nations, and that was never colonized by an outside power, Nepal has long been a favored site for international development programs. Such programs not only fund and facilitate development activities, but also produce ideas about the country, the problems to be addressed, and potential solutions.

 

“That is a question I am interested in, how knowledge is circulating about Nepal,” Willey-Sthapit said. “These ideas impact how people in the U.S. and other relatively wealthy countries talk about Nepal, as well as the kinds of policies and programs that are likely to be developed and funded by international organizations as a result.”

 

The study, written with co-authors Taryn Lindhorst of the University of Washington, Susan Kemp of the University of Auckland, and Maya Magarati of the University of Washington, was published in the journal Affilia: Feminist Inquiry in Social Work.

 

In analyzing research from international developers on Nepal, the authors found that cultural essentialist ideas were often promoted.

 

“This problem has been identified among transnational feminist scholars since at least the ‘80s,” Willey-Sthapit said of cultural essentialism. “I am a white American researcher and sometimes in the U.S. I would hear cultural essentialist ideas, including both negative and romanticizing stereotypes, from well-meaning people with whom I spoke. This study was a way of deconstructing this way of thinking and seeing if we can do this research, and support those working against domestic violence, without reinforcing those hierarchies.”

 

Such essentialism in the analyzed reports tended to create binaries in terms of time and place, wherein present-day violence is explained only as a carryover from traditional Nepali culture. At the same time, social change is portrayed largely as coming from modernizing outside forces. A few publications, funded by powerful international organizations, imply that the issue is so widespread that everyone is either a victim or a perpetrator.

 

Essentialist approaches to understanding domestic violence in Nepal paint the nation with a broad brush, ignoring the fact that Nepal is an incredibly diverse country. More than 120 languages are spoken there, and there are more than 90 ethnic groups and considerable religious diversity. Overlooking all that misses the diverse approaches to addressing domestic violence on a community level.

 

“In the global context, cultural essentialist ways of framing domestic violence imply a deeply colonial (and dubious) solution, which is to change the culture by imposing Western strategies, rather than recognizing the cultural norms and practices that are already leveraged to address violence, and working together to identify and support promising strategies,” Willey-Sthapit said. “If you try to ground your understanding in Nepal, and the ways people understand the issue, you can better grasp the historical, political, structural, normative and other contexts that enable violence and those that prevent it.”

 

While cultural essentialism was prevalent in the analyzed material, there were some important counter narratives present. A few documents, written by first authors working in Nepali or South Asian organizations, noted that patriarchy exists in Nepal as well as in other nations, including in high-income countries, and examined how that contributes to domestic violence. Several others, including some written by representatives from Nepal, South Asia and outside the region, discussed at least one global and/or recent historical shift that has contributed to domestic violence in some way. This included discussion of Nepal’s recent civil war, rising economic migration and the breakdown of strong community ties, and even — in one case — the lack of attention given to gender-based violence in development programming that sought to empower women.

 

Understanding such research is important as international development organizations are influential in how the world views a developing nation such as Nepal. They influence international investors, policy makers and others whose actions affect the lives of those living in the nation. By recognizing cultural essentialism in international development research about social problems such as domestic violence, development professionals and social workers can clear away unhelpful assumptions and create space for more reciprocal relationships and knowledge sharing toward effective action.

 

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1450 Jayhawk Blvd.

Lawrence KS 66045

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http://www.news.ku.edu

 

Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, director of news and media relations, [email protected]

 

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