Two Kitchens and Other ‘Modern’ Stories

Rethinking the Family in Contemporary Nepal Through Household Conflict and Fission

Keywords: Conflict, development, family, fission, modernity


This paper examines the ongoing phenomenon of household nuclearization in the Newar city of Bhaktapur, Nepal. Building upon 15 months of ethnographic research conducted in 2018–19 among middle-class families, I investigate the reasons for household fission and the related kinship transformations. Tracing the interconnected stories of conflict and dispersal of the members of a joint family, I argue that transitions in domestic structures not only represent the consequence of improved economic possibilities but also communicate dramatic social transformations and a redefinition of hierarchies of value and power between family members, which emerge alongside new ideas of family and self. By negotiating domestic spaces and practices, householders redefine a modern dharma to attain a middle class ideal of relatedness. By considering the domestic as the locus of the negotiations between social change and continuity, and by looking at conflict as a dialogical process of cultural revision, this study provides a new perspective on the making of moral modernities in Nepal, ultimately contributing to recent debates in the fields of kinship studies, anthropology of conflict, and moral anthropology.

Author Biography

Paola Tiné, The University of Adelaide

Paola Tine is a PhD candidate in Social Anthropology at the University of Adelaide (South Australia). After her studies in the Arts & Humanities (2013, BA Human Sciences with a major in Cultural Anthropology, University of Siena), she specialised in Visual Anthropology (2015, MA University of Siena) and in Documentary ethnographic video-making (2017, ETNOfilm, Padova). She has conducted intensive fieldwork in South Australia and Nepal, where she used traditional qualitative research methods and experimental visual methodologies, including painting. In 2018, she received the 'Jon Prosser Award for Outstanding Work by Beginning Scholars in Visual Methodologies' by the International Visual Sociology Association.

How to Cite
Tiné, P. (2022). Two Kitchens and Other ‘Modern’ Stories. HIMALAYA - The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, 41(2), 107-126.
Research Articles