War and Peace of the Newari Food

Paola Tine

4University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

In Nepal, food practices are linked to rituals, healing and hierarchy systems. Moreover, food  occupies  a distinctive place in Newar culture, specifically social relations between castes, genders, and generational groups. Traditional Newar family structures follow the Hindu system of patriarchal family. However, in the last 50 years, the model of joint family has been partially replaced by nuclear families, within which husbands and wives have equal decision-making power.

Research in the city of Bhaktapur reveals how this transition has led to a redefinition of the relations between spouses, siblings, parents and children. This presentation explores social interactions, inside and outside of the family, in relation to food. By describing food practices and interactions in Newari families, I explore the transitions of kinship and notions of respect and subservience. Kinship now encompasses relationships in which respect is based on acknowledgement of individuality, self-respect and freedom of choice. Central is the newly emerging concept of the person as an autonomous individual acting rather than part of a greater ‘mechanism’, as it was in the ‘archaic’ city. This is only possible as a consequence of modernisation, with its new ideologies and pressures, which the traditional structures of power are trying to resist.


Paola Tine graduated in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Siena in 2015. Her recent work focused on food practices in the context of resettlement among the Nepali-speaking Bhutanese community of Adelaide. Her current research project explores food and family dynamics among the Newars of Bhaktapur in Nepal.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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