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Contact  : letizia.chiara [at]

A social anthropologist and historian of religions, Chiara Letizia is Professor of South Asian Religions at the University of Québec in Montreal, and Researcher and Lecturer in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Milan Bicocca. She is a research associate at the School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford and an associate member of the CNRS’s Centre for Himalayan Studies.

Qualifications and research topics
She obtained a Master’s Degree in Comparative Ethnology and Sociology at the University of Paris X Nanterre in 2000 and her PhD in History of Religions from the University of Rome, ‘La Sapienza’, Italy in 2003. She held a postdoctoral position in Paris in 2004 (CNRS Research Team “Milieux, Sociétés et Cultures en Himalaya”, now known as the Centre for Himalayan Studies Villejuif) and was a Newton Fellow at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford from 2009 to 2011.

Chiara’s research interests focus on the anthropology of South Asia, Buddhism, Hinduism, ritual and symbolism, religion and politics, ethnic and religious activism. She has focused her fieldwork on the religious anthropology of Nepal. She has studied : Buddhist cults and initiation rituals in Newar society of the Kathmandu valley (1996-8) ; Hindu pilgrimages in the Tarai (1999-2003) ; Buddhist activism in relation with the ethnicization of politics after the advent of democracy (2004-2008).

Since 2010, she has been investigating the meanings, the shaping and the implementation of secularism in Nepal, and the role of the judiciary in this process.
At present, Chiara is investigating discourses and legal arguments against sacrifice in Nepal.

- anthropology of Buddhism
- anthropology of Hinduism
- newar religion
- pilgrimage
- ritual
- Tarai
- ethnic activism
- secularism
- hindutva
- judicial cases
- Public interest Litigation
- animal sacrifice
- animal rights

Nepal, Kathmandu valley and following Districts : Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Saptari, Udaypur, Dhanusa, Sindhupalchok, Chitwan, Nawalparasi, Tanahu, Rupandehi, Gulmi, Palpa, Dang, Banke.

Selective bibliography
Forthcoming. ‘Secularism’, in Deepak Thapa and Alexander Ramsbotham (eds) ‘Building inclusive peace in Nepal’ Accord : An International Review of Peace Initiatives 26.
Forthcoming. (with David N. Gellner) ‘What’s Left of Hinduism in the Secular Republic of Nepal ?’, in Torkel Brekke (ed) Modern Hinduism. OUP.
2016. (with David N. Gellner, and Sondra Hausner, eds) Religion, Secularism and Ethnicity in Contemporary Nepal. New Delhi : Oxford University Press.
2016. (with David N. Gellner) ‘Introduction : Religion and Identities in Post-Panchayat Nepal’, in David N. Gellner et al. (eds) Religion, Secularism and Ethnicity in Contemporary Nepal, 1-32. New Delhi : Oxford University Press.
2016. ‘Ideas of Secularism in Contemporary Nepal’, in David N. Gellner et al. (eds) Religion, Secularism and Ethnicity in Contemporary Nepal, 35-75. New Delhi : Oxford University Press.
2016. ‘Buddha was Tharu ?’, in Jeffrey Samuels, Mark Rowe et Justin McDaniel (eds) Figures of Buddhist Modernity in Asia, 88-91. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press.
2016. Review of ‘The Modern Spirit of Asia : The Spiritual and the Secular in China and India’ by Peter van der Veer. Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2014. 296 pp. American Anthropologist 118/2 : 459-460.
2016. ‘National Gods at the Court. Secularism and the judiciary in Nepal’, in Daniela Berti, Gilles Tarabout and Raphaël Voix (eds) Filing Religion : State, Hinduism, and Courts of Law, 34-68 Delhi : Oxford University Press.
2015. ‘The “secularism case” : prosecution of a Hindu activist before a quasi-judicial authority in the Nepal Tarai’, in Daniela Berti and Devika Bordia (eds) Regimes of Legality. Ethnography of Criminal Cases in South Asia, 129- 170. New Delhi : Oxford University Press.
2015. ‘Shaping secularism through the judiciary in Nepal : two case studies from the Kathmandu Supreme Court’, in Peter Losonczi and Walter Van Herck (eds) Secularism, Religion, and Politics : India and Europe, 190-210, New Delhi and Abingdon : Routledge.
2014. ‘Buddhist Activism, New Sanghas, and the Politics of Belonging among Some Tharu and Magar Communities of Southern Nepal’, in Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka and Gérard Toffin (eds) Facing Globalisation in the Himalayas. Belonging and the Politics of the Self, 286-322. Delhi : Sage.
2013. ‘The goddess Kumari at the Supreme Court : Divine kinship and secularism in Nepal’, in Lucia Michelutti and Alice Forbess (eds) Divine kinship and politics, FOCAAL, Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 67 : 32- 46.
2012. ‘A state goddess in the new secular Nepal. Reflections on the Kumari case at the Supreme Court’, in Massimo Rosati and Kristina Stoeckl (eds) Multiple Modernities and Global Post-Secular Society, 115-141. Farnham : Ashgate.
2012. ‘The State of Religion in a Non-Religious State : Discourses and practices in the secular republic of Nepal. Workshop report’, European Bulletin of Himalayan Research 40, 110-115.
2011. ‘Shaping secularism in Nepal’ European Bulletin of Himalayan Research 39, 66-104.
2010. ‘The Sacred Confluence, Between Nature and Culture’, in Marie Lecomte-Tilouine (ed) Nature, culture and religion at the crossroads of Asia, 344-369. New Delhi : Social Science Press.
2010. ‘Bouddhisme’. Dictionary entry in F. Landy (ed) Dictionnaire de l’Inde Contemporaine, 90-92. Paris : Armand Colin.
2009. ‘L’abito rituale fa il monaco newar. Sul rito di iniziazione delle alte caste buddhiste newar del Nepal’, in S. Botta (ed) Abiti, corpi, identità. Significati e valenze profonde del vestire, 291-315. Firenze : SEF.
2007. ‘Réflexions sur la notion de conversion dans la diffusion du bouddhisme Theravada au Népal’, in Pierre Beaucauge and Deidre Meintel (eds) Social and Political Dimensions of Religious Conversion, Anthropologica 49/1 special issue : 51-66.
2007. ‘La costruzione di un’identità buddhista in Nepal : l’esempio dei Tharu e dei Magar’, in R. Malighetti (ed) Politiche dell’identità, 45-73. Roma : Meltemi Editore.
2006. ‘Buddhismo come non-hinduismo. Su alcuni aspetti della diffusione del movimento theravada in Nepal’, in M. Sernesi and F. Squarcini (ed) Il buddhismo contemporaneo. Rappresentazioni, istituzioni, modernità, 105-130. Firenze : SEF.
2006. ‘Il perizoma e l’abito del monaco. Sulla simbologia del vestire nei riti di iniziazione delle caste buddhiste newar in Nepal’, in A. Saggioro (ed) Dimensioni Lontane. Quaderni di simbologia del vestire 1, 75-100. Roma : Edizioni Nuova Cultura.
2005. ‘Retourner au bouddhisme moderne des origines : remarques sur la diffusion du bouddhisme Theravada chez les Tharu et les Magar du Népal’. Annales de la Fondation Fyssen 20 : 69-78.
2005. ‘Riflessioni sul concetto di conversione nella diffusione del buddhismo in Nepal’. Mythos Rivista di Storia delle Religioni 12 : 175-202.
2003. La dea bambina. Il culto della Kumari e la regalità in Nepal. Milano : FrancoAngeli.