Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The Satar of Sunauli are divided into three categories: the Sapha Hod, the Bidin Hod and the Christian Satar. This dissertation, based on two periods of field work in southern Nepal, focuses on the Sapha Hod category of the Satar ethnic group and examines the ethnicity of the Sapha Hod in a complex ethnic, caste and class system. The Sapha Hod incorporate certain culturally valued caste rituals in their daily behavior but deny the caste influence and view the borrowed elements as belonging to their own traditional socio-cultural system. Such practice of rituals, belonging to two different cultures, has affected the ethnicity of the Sapha Hod. Instead of defining themselves according to their own cultural norms, the Sapha Hod define themselves situâtionally, depending on their needs and life—strategies when participating in different contexts - secular and ritual; exclusive and inclusive. As such, ethnicity claimed by the Sapha Hod differs from the way members of their larger ethnic group define it. In this way, ethnicity becomes a device for the Sapha Hod to claim a higher ritual status within their larger egalitarian Satar group and, at the same time, it appears as a means to compete with their

caste neighbors in order to obtain equal socio-political statuses and advantages within the nation. This thesis pays particular attention to the symbolic expressions of this ethnicity in various Satar rituals and festivals as well as in everyday behavior. It shows how these rituals, in turn, help maintain the multiple and overlapping identities of the Sapha Hod. Conclusions emerging from the discussion contribute to studies of normative versus contextual identities, culture change and Satar ethnography.

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Author permission given 9/16/19.

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