“It has worked on all the other men, why isn’t it working on you?” Involuntary Childlessness and Masculinity in Nepal

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URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10900/133147
Dokumentart: PhDThesis
Date: 2022-11-17
Language: English
Faculty: 5 Philosophische Fakultät
Department: Ethnologie
Advisor: Polit, Karin (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2022-10-04
DDC Classifikation: 300 - Social sciences, sociology and anthropology
Other Keywords:
Male infertility
Therapeutic assemblage
Nepali men
lineal masculinity
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This work explores the causes and consequences of the involuntarily childless men’s desire for children in Nepal. Involuntary childlessness is a major cause of distress among men. One of the main reasons for men’s anxiety and suffering due to childlessness is the strong need and obligation felt by men to save, and continue, their lineage (vansha) and pass on their properties (ansha) to their heirs. I have conceptualized these two by a borrowed term “the lineal masculinity” (King and Stone 2010)—a deeply rooted ideal of Hindu hegemony that prevails in Nepal. It is passed on to the male line of the family through the “seed” or sperm of a man. Inability to uphold and carry on the lineal masculinity is also a stigma that emasculates men, which is understood as kamjori. This leads men to pursue various healing options available in Nepal, such as: visiting temples in different places across the country to worship specific Hindu shrines known for fertility; biomedical treatments for curing infertility; consulting astrologers and conducting ritual solutions they prescribe; seeking help of healers who resolve the problem of childlessness through spirits. These different therapeutic options, which are sometimes competing and even conflicting, come together to make a therapeutic assemblage. Adoption is not preferred because it exposes a man’s kamjori even starkly and also does not fulfil the requirement of lineal masculinity, viz. purity of descent. Nevertheless, childless men who adopt unrelated children give a different meaning to lineage. Thus, such adoption creates a new understanding of lineal masculinity and reformulates the classical norm of lineage based on purity of patrilineage.

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