Karma and Female Agency in Bhutanese Novels

Congrats to Sonam Nyenda and Tshering Om Tamang for the inaugural issue of the International Journal for Bhutan & Himalayan Research!

I am honored to be the guest editor for this special issue on “Contemporary Bhutanese Literature,” featuring academic articles by Sonam Kinga, Sonam Nyenda, Tshering Om Tamang and myself, along with an essay by leading Bhutanese writers, Chador Wangmo, Rinzin Rinzin and Namgyal Tshering, and other contributions. Also included is an important Preface on “Why Bhutanese Literature Matters” by Dorji Thinley, President of the Paro College of Education, Royal University of Bhutan.

My own article on “Karma and Female Agency in Novels by Bhutanese Women Writers” engages in a comparison of the novels, Circle of Karma (2005) by Kunzang Choden and Kyetse (2017) by Chador Wangmo. There are a number of parallel features in these works that make for a salient comparison. Both center on female protagonists who begin their lives with keenly-felt religious aspirations and, following a series of misfortunes that propel them from their homelands, eventually become nuns. Both are unflinching in confronting gender issues, including sexual abuse and human trafficking, through the lived experiences of an array of female characters. In addition, both use karma as a narrative devise, though to different effect, at pivotal moments in the narrative as the protagonists attempt to make sense of their predicaments. In analyzing these novels, my article examines the gendered deployment of karma and its relationship to female agency.

The PDF of the inaugural issue of the International Journal for Bhutan & Himalayan Research (Fall 2020) is available here:
https://www.colorado.edu/tibethimalayainitiative/sites/default/files/attached-files/ijbhr_inaugural_issue_fall_2020.pdf

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