Chair of the Department
Office: 107,110 Piccolo Building
Steven Folmar (Ph.D., Case Western Reserve), is an applied cultural anthropologist whose main interests are in Medical and Psychological Anthropology, Social Status and Development. He has conducted fieldwork in Bangladesh, India, and the United States, but his primary, ongoing research interests are in Nepal, where he also conducts the Summer Program in Nepal. He is involved with the Center for Global Programs and Studies, assisting with issues of cultural competency at Wake Forest. Dr. Folmar works closely with NGOs (he is on the Advisory Committee of the International Commission for Dalit Rights) and committees in Nepal to help Dalits pursue equal political and social status and relevant development goals. Folmar also serves on the Executive Council of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies.
A critical concern is also to assist Dalit and other communities in pursuit of social justice and self-identified development needs. To that end, he helps with raising funds and distributing them directly to such communities, empowering them to make their own decisions about how to use these funds.
Research and Scholarly Activities
For the past decade, Folmar has increasingly focused on issues of identity and social justice for the Dalits, or “untouchable” castes of Nepal. To that end, he has concentrated on the micro-political processes of resistance to entrenched power in Nepal through tactics of identity politics and the politics of anonymity. In their struggle for social equality, Dalits have grappled with how to posit a group identity that can gain enough favor in the national debate on society in Nepal to advance their social and economic goals.
Continuing in this vein, he has recently turned to the connections between caste status and mental well-being. He has conducted two research projects aimed at this issue, the second one, Oppression and Mental Health in Nepal (OMH), was funded for three years by the National Science Foundation. Currently with one paper under review, he and his co-PIs and that covers the major findings, that mental health status is best understood from an intersectional theoretical lens.
By now, it is common knowledge that Nepal has recently undergone a devastating disaster, in the form of a series of earthquakes and aftershocks beginning on April 25, 2015. Because his research team had collected mental health data on adolescents living along the edge of the earthquake zone through OMH, he and his co-PIs were ideally poised to study the effects of the earthquake on mental health. This study, Social and Psychological Resilience in Post-earthquake Nepal (Resilience), also funded by NSF, has finished the data collection stage in which they were able to follow up on nearly 60 percent of the original sample and to collect 63 in-depth interviews. Folmar has presented twice on this project and is currently preparing to publish his findings.
Current and Recent Articles and Book Chapters
2013 S. Excluded creator or victim of karma: contesting Dalit identity in Nepal. Studies in Nepalese History and Society 18(1):81-108.
2013 Problems of identity for hill Dalits and Nepal’s nationalist project. In Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict: Identities and Mobilization after 1990. M Lawoti, S Hangen, eds. New York: Routledge, 85-101.
2009 “You are the Clever One”: a semantic contest in a transient host/tourist community in Nepal. Southeastern Review of Asian Studies: 30:81-96.
2009 with G Palmes. Cross-cultural psychiatry in the field: collaborating with anthropology. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 48(9)873-876.
2009 Identity politics among Dalits in Nepal. Himalaya: 27:41-53. Also appearing in Dalits of Nepal: Towards Dignity, Citizenship and Justice, A Guneratne ed. Kathmandu: Social Science Baha, 73-107.
2008 The Sirubari village tourism project and local development. In Public Policy and Local Development: Opportunities and Constraints, PK Pradhan, D Wastl-Walter and S Folmar, eds. International Geographical Union, Commission on Geography and Public Policy, Kathmandu, pp 241-259.
Recent On-line Publications
2015 with M Cameron, M Pariyar. Digging for Dalit: Social Justice and an Inclusive Anthropology of Nepal. Fieldsights – Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology Online, October 14, 2015, http://culanth.org/fieldsights/739-digging-for-dalit-social-justice-and-an-inclusive-anthropology-of-nepal.
2015 Discourse on Dignity. My Republica, October 7, 2015, http://www.myrepublica.com/feature-article/author/1271-stevenfolmar.html.
2014 Oppression, Mental Health and the House Science Committee. Neuroanthropology: http://blogs.plos.org/neuroanthropology/2014/10/23/oppression-mental-health-house-science-committee/. October 13, 2014.
2013 with B. Heine (first author). Top-down development: a climate of uncertainty fuels forced displacement in Nepal’s push for road expansions. Truth-out.org: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/18413-top-down-development-a-climate-of-uncertainty-fuels-forced-displacement-in-nepals-push-for-road-expansions. Sept. 9, 2013.
Recent Book Reviews:
2015 Development and Public Health in the Himalaya: Reflections on Healing in Contemporary Nepal, by Ian Harper. Himalaya. 35:140-142.
2012 Uncertain Tastes: Memory, Ambivalence, and the Politics of Eating in Samguru, Northern Kenya, by Jon Holtzman. Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment 34:96-7.
Teaching and Student Engagement
ANT 114 – Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
ANT 336 – Myth, Ritual, and Symbolism
ANT 362 – Medical Anthropology
ANT 387 – Ethnographic Research Methods
Folmar is active in advising students who seek sponsorship through a variety of on-campus and external funding sources, including the Richter and ACC-IAC fellowships.
He has also been the primary advisor on 15 Honors Theses in Anthropology over the years. Ansley Fennell was his most recent honors student and she has collaborated with Folmar and Kristen Gentry on a publication that is currently under review.
Finally, Dr. Folmar maintains an active cultural anthropology research lab, in which he works individually with students (9 to date) on a variety of research methods related to projects he conduct. These activities are highly integrated, that is, they blend with classes (especially Ethnographic Methods), the Summer Program in Nepal and his own research.