This article focuses on the ways in which globalization has influenced the experience of gender and identity in Nepal, attending particularly to one young woman – exceptional in her resourcefulness – and her family. Social change in South Asia has had a much more profound effect on the lives of women than on those of men, as Susan Seymour has made clear in her multigenerational study of women in India. This makes feminine experience particularly valuable as a vehicle for understanding the implications of globalization. By examining the moral perspectives and associated choices of a young woman who has lived through a time of radical change in Nepal, we can ground the much-discussed phenomenon of globalization in lived experience and come to understand it more richly.
I first met Sumitra in 1978 when she was about four years old. Her hair was in little ponytails, and she wore a red pantsuit that her parents had brought back from Hong Kong when the family returned for a short time to Tebas, a Gurung village of about 500 people, located two days walking distance from the town of Pokhara. I saw her again in 1987, when her family returned to Nepal permanently after her father retired from the British army. They had built a house in Pokhara bazaar – then the second-largest city in Nepal – and Sumitra was a slim schoolgirl, studying at an English-medium school. ...