Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name


Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Applied Medical

Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Kimber H. McKay

Commitee Members

Gilbert Quintero, Anna Prentiss, Sarah Halvorson, Melvyn Goldstein


Conflict, Development, Diffusion, Health, Risk, Vulnerability


University of Montana


In Humla District, Nepal, agro-pastoralists' confrontations with forces of change in the last generation have altered villagers' abilities to gain access to scarce resources. Development efforts and Nepal's recent armed conflict, in particular, introduced novel technologies and ideologies that affected Humli vulnerabilities. This dissertation is based on field research comparing two Hindu villages in northwest Nepal during 2009 and 2010. One village had more extensive ties to development than the other, and these villagers and other change agents co-created transitional contexts of vulnerability in the post-conflict setting of rural Nepal. An armed conflict dominated the political landscape in Nepal for nearly ten years, ostensibly to uplift downtrodden members of society. Humlis who joined the Maoists during the insurgency had higher average incomes and higher overall socioeconomic statuses than those who did not join. This research challenges conventional wisdom about how `people's wars' motivate individuals of different social positions. Indeed, villagers' responses to development workers and Maoist combatants were surprisingly similar. Certain development processes had de-stabilized parts of the region, and contributed both materially and ideologically to the vulnerabilities people experienced during and following the conflict. The rise of Nepali democracy and the development industry since the early 1990s has presented new social networking and resource options to Humlis as well as exposing them to new risks and vulnerabilities. The villagers who resisted some of these novelties had better food security and health outcomes and less divisive experiences of the conflict than villagers more engaged with development. Based on over a year of fieldwork (participant observation, surveys, interviews, and focus groups), statistical and ArcGIS analyses represent landscapes of health, health-seeking behavior, conflict, and kin networks in northwestern Nepal. These findings explore the integration of neoliberal development in this post-conflict setting in which cultural pluralism, caste, Hinduism and cultural conservatism all shape decision-making. They reveal the social and material resource conditions conducive to engagement in risky behavior in a politically and ecologically diverse and fragile context, with implications for Nepal's, and by extension other rapidly developing regions', ongoing development and contexts of vulnerability.



© Copyright 2013 Catherine Lee Sanders