Research Topic I
In Nepal, the inequality between the feudalist minority and the marginalized majority is a political issue that has been there for centuries. It was this issue that the Communist Party, when established in 1949, chose as their first and foremost political agenda item. The Royal family and its supporters were portrayed by the Communists as the upholders of feudalism. From 1992 to 1996 the political tensions, between the Monarchy and its supporters, the pro-democratic parties and the –then called- Communist Party of Nepal- the Maoists (CPN-M), increased and in 1996 the CPN-M called for the “people’s war”, which started in the Mid-Western Hills of Nepal. The CPN-M intended to abolish the feudal forces that were, according to them, responsible for the multiple forms of oppression in the Nepalese society. Between 1996 and 2001 this civil war expended throughout the country. Violent confrontations between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the CPN-M and the government security forces continued until 2006. Then, the CPN-M joined mainstream politics and in November of that same year the Comprehensive Peace Accords (CPAs) were signed. The civil war led to intense human suffering; families and communities were torn apart, critical infrastructure was destroyed, the economy heavily affected and the violent confrontations caused over 13,000 deadly victims.
In 2007/2008 I went to the Mid-Western Hills of Nepal to research the impact that the civil war has had on the social structures of the local communities based in the Mid Western Hills of Nepal. Furthermore, I looked at the resilient capacity of the civilians living in this area and explored which actions they had taken to cope with the negative effects of war. Based the research findings I wrote a master thesis for which I won the Master Thesis Prize (a scholarship) of the International Institute of Asian Studies in 2009. Currently, I am re-writing and editing two articles that I wrote a while ago. For both articles I make use of my fieldwork data of 2007/2008 and desk research accomplished in 2009/2010. The first article is about external aid, and its positive and negative effects at local level in different parts of Nepal, versus grass root initiatives to overcome the negative effects of the civil war (1996-2006). The second article focuses on the conflict impact, social capital and grass root informal/formal groups as resilient mechanisms within the local communities of the Mid-Western Hills of Nepal.
Research Topic II
Over the years I developed an interest in the role of culture (sports, arts and rituals) in trauma healing processes on individual level and in reconciliation processes on group level. This interest can partly be ascribed to my experiences in Nepal, and the role that dance, singing, and rituals played in people’s lives and within the society to deal with the past. But, more important for the development of this interest is my mixed educational background (performing and community arts, and international development studies), and through previous work experiences where sports, rituals and performing arts (mainly dance and theatre) were employed to bring social change to individual lives and to communities. Whenever, I see the transformative power of artistic means in action it strongly touches me. At present, I am exploring how to follow up and to narrow down my research topic.The Newsletter articles
1) M. van Houten e.a (2010) Good Practice Publication. Youth Advocacy in Africa, for a Culture of Peace. A hands-on toolkit published by the United Network of Young Peacebuilders, December 2010. The toolkit will soon be available at http://www.unoy.org/resources/advocacy.html
2) Vriens, L.J.A. and M. van Houten (forth coming, Nov/Dec 2010), ‘A Peace Education Experiment: Lessons drawn from five years of International Summerschool on the Education of Peace and Human Rights’. In Factis Pax: Online Journal of Peace Education and Social Justice www.infactispax.org
3) M. van Houten (2009), ‘Veiligheids- en ethische uitdagingen die studenten kunnen tegenkomen tijdens hun veldwerk’, In: UVA Nieuwskrant Geografie, Planologie en Internationale Ontwikkelingstudies, Spring No. 15 ‘Mobiliteit’, pp 16. http://www.fmg.uva.nl/gpio/nieuwskranten.cfm
4) A. Heller & M. van Houten (2009), ‘Maoisten Plaag voor Indiaanse Regering’, In: het Nederlands Dagblad, 5 May 2009, pp 8.
5) Houten, M. van (May 2009), ‘Civil War, Aid and the Resilient capacity of the local communities in the CPN-Maoist heartland of Nepal’. In: Puzzling complexity: aid in Nepal in the midst of the Maoist revolt (edited volume), the volume has been submitted to SAGE India. A draft version of the paper was presented in the World Conference of Humanitarian Studies, February 2009, Groningen.
6) Marloes van Houten, Mike O'Brien & Esther Westra, Dutch NGO Development Practitioner Experiences with Organizational Learning. Inspiring stories of the application of Appreciative Inquiry as a learning tool. In partnership with PSO, and the International School for Humanities and Social Sciences, first version June 2007, revised version November 2008. Download the report here.
1) December 2009, MA National Thesis Award of the International Institute of Asian Studies for my research master thesis ‘Nepal’s Civil War and its Impact. Conflict Impact, Social Capital and Resilient Institutions In the CPN-M Maoist Heartland Communities of Nepal’. The prize concerns a scholarship. http://www.graduateschoolofsocialsciences.uva.nl/gsss_news/news.cfm/42411DBE-CC76-443E-A2F0FCFF11AA2A44
2) September 2009, Nominated for the ‘Visions on Peace’ thesis prize of IKV Pax Christi and Stichting Vredeswetenschappen. See http://www.stichtingvredeswetenschappen.nl/page52.html
3) 1992, Young Writers Contest Award for an essay on the effects of people’s living environment on their overall well being and health.