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.