Pratyoush Onta is currently the convener of a multidisciplinary
research center located in Kathmandu, Center for Social
Research and Development. He attended Brandeis University
from 1984 to 1988 where he obtained a BA in Economics with
math minor. He then obtained an MA in South Asian Studies
(1991) and PhD in history (1996) from the University of
Pennsylvania. In terms of research he is interested in the
politics of identity, the history of institutions, the sociology
of knowledge, and media and democracy. In following these
interests in Nepal and South Asia, he has written about
Nepali nationalism, ethnic politics, history of the Gurkhas,
academic institutions in South Asia and regional studies.
He has also published many articles and co-edited and edited
seven books related to various aspects of the media in Nepal.
He founded the journal Studies in Nepali History and
Society in 1996 and has co-edited it since. He has also
directed several research projects, often working with young
Nepalis who are just beginning their professional careers
as researchers. He has received several fellowships for
individual research and grants for group research.
Before concentrating his research work on the interfaces
between media history and the politics of identity in Nepal,
he has also been a media producer. He was a contributing
editor for the Nepali language Himal magazine (1996-1999),
the host of the discussion program, Dabali, for Radio
Sagarmatha (1998-1999) and the columnist of The Politics
of Knowledge for The Kathmandu Post (1997-2002). Since
1996, he has also served as the convener of the public discussion
forum in Kathmandu called Martin Chautari.
Local Radio. Ed. with Raghu Mainali. Kathmandu,
Nepal Press Institute and Martin Chautari, 2002. (In Nepali.)
"Critiquing the Media Boom." In Kanak Mani Dixit
and Shastri Ramachandran, eds. State of Nepal.. Kathmandu,
Himal Books, 2002: 253-269 .
"Nepal: A Striving for Dignity." In Zubeida Mustafa,
ed. The South Asian Century 1900-1999. Karachi, Oxford
University Press, 2001: 114-123
"FM Radio and the New Urban Public in Nepal."
Sarai Reader 01: The Public Domain. Raqs Media Collective
and Geert Lovink, eds. Delhi: Sarai, The New Media Initiative,
Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, 2001: 76-79.
"Regional Area Studies in South Asia: Dark Days Ahead."
Nepali Journal of Contemporary Studies, vol. 1, no.
2., 2001: 60-89
This research is related to the politics of cultural identities,
broadly defined, in Nepal as manifested in the organizational
management of radio and radio programming in that country.
Although the time period covered by my research will span
the five decades between 1950 and 2002, my main focus will
be the consolidation of state-owned Radio Nepal (established
in 1951) during the Panchayat era of Nepali history (1960-1990).
I will analyze how the shifting nature of international
thinking regarding mass communication and 'nation building'
influenced the political agenda of radio in Nepal during
the period covered by this research. I will also explore
how the Panchayati state's multiple ideological needs were
translated into the institutional set-up of Radio Nepal
and explore how, through programming mainly in the Nepali
language, it propagated a particularly exclusive notion
of Nepali identity.
I will also explore what the new political dispensation
after the end of the Panchayat regime in 1990 has meant
for Radio Nepal and analyze how it has tried to meet the
challenge of programming for an officially diverse audience
- diversity itself being examined in terms of gender, ethnicity,
religion, culture and class - in Nepal of the 1990s. The
latter will involve examining the location of Radio Nepal
in a relatively more democratic media landscape and exploring
its relationship with issues related to diversity, difference,
equality and citizenship as raised by various post-1990
cultural and social movements in Nepal. In this study I
bring together my academic interests in the politics of
cultural nationalism and media history. Through research
on this topic under the Fulbright NCS program I hope to
contribute to the comparative histories of nationalism,
ethnicity, public sphere, radio and democracy.