Dr. Steven Folmar
Associate Chair of the Department
Office: Anthropology Building
Steven Folmar (Ph.D., Case Western Reserve), is an applied cultural anthropologist whose main interests are in Medical Anthropology, Religion and Development. He has conducted fieldwork in Bangladesh and India, and has ongoing research interests in Nepal, where he also conducts the Summer Program in Nepal. He is involved with the Center for International Studies, assisting with issues of cultural competency at Wake Forest. Finally, Dr. Folmar works closely with NGOs and committees in Nepal to help Dalits pursue equal social status and relevant development goals.
For the past decade, I have increasingly focused on issues of identity and social justice for the Dalits, or “untouchable” castes of Nepal. To that end, I have concentrated on the micro-political processes of resistance to entrenched power in Nepal through tactics of identity politics and the politics of anonymity. In their struggle for social equality, Dalits have grappled with how to posit a group identity that can gain enough favor in the national debate on society in Nepal to advance their social and economic goals. I have argued that social groups have increasingly been treated as belonging to one model of group formation, the ethnic model. This model, I believe does not fit the situation of Dalits well and need a new model of understanding their own status.
Recently, I have turned to understanding how Dalits and others conceive of caste status – what is the essential definition of caste? How is membership to the group conceived? One argument that has gained credence recently is that people can construe group membership in one of two ways, in terms of a kind of essence, like blood or DNA or as a culturally constructed relationship based on historical and social processes. I have just begun work on a project that will attempt to relate a person’s definition of group (Dalit; high caste or ethnic) with mental health, such as depression and anxiety. The central idea of this question is that a person’s cognitive model of society can either exacerbate or ameliorate mental health problems for males and females. This project will also relate the role of formal education in this dynamic – does education promote social equality or uphold hierarchy? How? Does it affect how people see their group membership? The specific questions are exciting and nearly endless. Some long-held “truisms” about caste and caste society are up for re-examination in this project.
Questions of immediate concern:
- What do people say are the specifics of group membership? Is it endowed by the creator, situated in the blood, or constructed by society? Is it a complex of these and other things?
- Is group membership perceived to be fixed or can it change?
- Can we identify a “cultural” (group held) model of society? Does individual difference with this cultural model affect mental health?
- Is it the model itself that is related to mental health?
Any commentary on these or other issues is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2010 (anticipated) Folmar S. Problems of Identity: Hill Dalits and Nepal’s Nationalist Project. In Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict: Mobilization of National, Linguistic, Caste, Religious and Regional Identities in Nepal, M Lawoti and S Hangen, eds. Routledge (accepted for publication).
2009 Folmar S. “You are the Clever One”: a semantic contest in a transient host/tourist community in Nepal. Southeastern Review of Asian Studies: 30:81-96.
2009 Folmar S., G Palmes. Cross-cultural psychiatry in the field: collaborating with anthropology. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 48(9)873-876.
2009 Folmar S. Identity politics among Dalits in Nepal. Himalaya: 27:41-53.
2008 Folmar S. The Sirubari village tourism project and local development. In Public Policy and Local Development: Opportunities and Constraints, PK Pradhan, D Wastl-Walter and S Folmar, eds. International Geographical Union, Commission on Geography and Public Policy, Kathmandu, pp 241-259.
ANT 111 C – People and Cultures of the World
ANT 387/687 A/AG – Ethnographic Research Methods