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PhD Dissertation Defence: “Challenges of Autonomy Struggles in Asia: The Cases of Nepal and China”

June 16, 2023 @ 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Hari Jnawali‘s dissertation defence.


This thesis uses document analysis as a research method to examine the factors that prevent the Chinese and Nepalese governments from recognizing ethnic minorities’ claims to self-determination within their national jurisdictions. The Tibetans in China and the Madheshis in Nepal have sought the recognition of their self-determination through autonomy. But the Chinese and Nepalese governments consider that autonomy leads to territorial disintegration and hesitate to address this claim. In international norms, the meaning of self-determination has shifted from the right to independence to the right to accommodation; minorities can exercise self-determination through autonomy within the state’s boundaries. This normative development has not lessened the fear of secession among the Chinese and Nepalese political actors. Against this background, this thesis has examined the following question: why do the Chinese and Nepalese governments consider self-determination as potentially leading to secession? It identifies that these two governments associate self-determination with secession due to i) their respective political systems, ii) the anti-colonial interpretation of self- determination, and iii) foreign intervention in ethnic conflicts. The Chinese government rejects self-determination to defend its centralized political system whereas the Nepalese government rejects self- determination to strengthen its democratic political system that values individual rights and legal equality. Likewise, both governments interpret self-determination as the right to independence, but this understanding has affected the Nepalese government more than its Chinese counterpart. Finally, foreign intervention has also produced hesitation toward self-determination. Both governments assume that foreign actors are working against their territorial norms, and the external actors’ contradictory response to ethnic conflict provides grounds for this allegation.

Supervisor: Dr. Dan Gorman, BSIA, University of Waterloo
Committee Members: Dr. Jasmin Habib, BISA, University of Waterloo and Dr. Alistair Edgar, BSIA, Wilfrid Laurier University
Internal-external Examiner: Dr. Nathan Funk, Conrad Grebel University College
External Examiner: Dr. André Lecours, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa

There are limited spaces available to attend the defence. Email events@balsillieschool.ca if you would like to attend in-person or virtually.

Hari Jnawali


June 16, 2023
1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Event Category:


Hybrid – Zoom and room 123
67 Erb Street West
Waterloo, ON N2L 6C2 Canada
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