Dr. Sangita Rayamajhi is considered a pioneering scholar of women’s studies in Nepal where she has taught for over twenty years at Tribhuvan University. Her teaching interests range from gender and sexuality to American, British and non-Western fiction to theatre and film studies. Dr. Rayamajhi has published numerous articles in internationally peer-reviewed journals, authored five books and completed four Nepali to English book translations. In local Nepalese media Dr. Rayamajhi has emerged as a preeminent voice on matters pertaining to gender, race and the role of women in contemporary Nepalese society and politics.
In December 2007, following a 10-year Maoist insurgency and widespread pro-democracy protests, Nepal made the historic decision to abolish its 240-year old monarchy. The first democratic elections in nearly ten years, intended to elect an assembly to draft a new constitution, were set for April 2008. In the pre- and post-election fervor, which brought the Maoists (or Communist Party of Nepal) to power, Nepal became increasingly volatile; pressure to support various political factions and their agendas permeated all levels of society. In academia, political intimidation was pervasive and at Tribhuvan University, faculty members were reportedly split along party lines.
Dr. Rayamajhi, who had previously tutored children of the royal family, felt this former association led colleagues to view her with suspicion. Efforts to censor her freedom of expression intensified. As one of few women on the faculty, Dr. Rayamajhi had long faced intimidation in response to her public calls for increased liberties for women in a patriarchal society. Instability surrounding the election period brought all the pressures boiling to the surface, and Dr. Rayamajhi, seeking a period of respite to continue her work unharmed, appealed to SRF for support.
The University of Alabama first brought Dr. Rayamajhi’s case to the attention of SRF with their generous offer to host her as a visiting scholar for the academic year 2008-2009. While on fellowship, Dr. Rayamajhi taught courses in comparative literature, cross cultural and women’s studies. She delivered a variety of public lectures including “Re Caste-ing Women in Nepal” exploring the lingering tradition of offering girls to the gods and trafficking girls and women within Nepal and across borders. Dr. Rayamajhi also directed a multicultural presentation entitled “Scenes of Change: A Dramatic History of Nepal” featuring students in visual and symbolic representations of recent political changes in Nepal against a backdrop of festivals, rituals and street theater.
At the completion of her SRF fellowship, Dr. Rayamajhi accepted a teaching position on the faculty of the Asian University for Women (AUW) in Chittagong, Bangladesh. One step closer to home, Dr. Rayamajhi will expand her research on feminism in South Asia with an emphasis on Nepal. She looks forward to bringing her knowledge and expertise to young women in the region.