Reproduction through Revolution

Maoist women’s struggle for equity in post-development Nepal

The title of this chapter, ‘Reproduction through Revolution,’ is intended to evoke not only the experiences of procreation throughout the war and it’s aftermath, but the unexpected ways procreation drew ex-combatant women back into long-standing gender relations and norms rather than overturning them.

Features the personal and political struggles of women who became mothers during a prolonged civil war and its aftermath in Nepal, while they were active members of the Maoist guerilla army, the People’s Liberation Army of Nepal or PLA. During the ten years of wartime while combatants were underground, if women became pregnant they typically continued their combat duties and had to leave their infants in the care of others.  Then after a peace agreement was signed in 2006, a “baby boom” occurred in the cantonments while ex-combatants waited six years to be processed.  I conducted research with PLA ex-combatants in 2012 as the cantonments where they had been held post conflict were being disbanded, along with a brief follow-up in 2015.  Pregnancy, birth, and becoming a mother were critical parts of many women’s experiences as PLA members and ex-combatants.  Women who fought to revolutionize Nepali society often ended up in all-too-familiar gender roles as wives and mothers post conflict, while others found themselves excluded from motherhood altogether due to the amount of time that had passed while fighting for the cause.

Available in The Routledge Handbook of Anthropology and Reproduction (2021)