Giving God Glory
How Christian Tharus Negotiate Belonging through Ritual Music in Nepal through Ritual Music in Nepa
In Nepal, ethnicity is often constituted through ritual practice. If ritual participation is a key way of exercising membership in an ethnic group, how might Christians--who no longer participate in many community rituals--demonstrate their belonging in ethnic communities? In this article, I argue that modifying traditional songs and dances for a church context is one way that Christian Tharus continue to identify with their ethnic communities within a multicultural Christian community. I examine two Christian Tharu performances: performing the huri nāc (a Kathariya Tharu song and dance genre performed during Holi) at interchurch events and arranging an original, Nepali-language hymn as a maghauta nāc (a song and dance genre performed during Tharu celebrations of Māghī). The first performance contends that Tharu religion can comprise of more than one religious tradition, challenging essentialist narratives of what Tharu religion should be. The second performance declares that Christian Nepali practice is wide enough to encompass Tharu cultural signifiers. I draw on my ethnographic research in Tharu communities in Kailali and Dang districts, which ranged from attending church events, seasonal music competitions, and community festivals to interviewing lay men and women, pastors, and other church leaders. Discussing the musical choices of these Christian Tharus allows me enter the conversation about belonging within Himalayan studies. I demonstrate how a focus on belonging does not negate the importance of identity, but is a complement to studies of difference.
Copyright (c) 2020 Victoria M. Dalzell
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