ANR Programme 2009-2013
image of courtroom
A Joint Programme on Justice and Governance in India and South Asia
(Hosted by Centre for Himalayan Studies)

Chiara Letizia


mail: chiara_letizia (at)

A social anthropologist and historian of religions, she is Researcher and Lecturer at the University of Milano-Bicocca and Newton Fellow at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. Her main interest is the religious anthropology of Nepal. She has studied Buddhist cults and initiation rituals in the Newar society of Kathmandu valley; Hindu pilgrimages in the Terai; Buddhist movements in relation with ethnic claims and political change after 1990. She is currently studying religious change and the implementation of secularism in Nepal after the interim constitution of 2007 declared it a secular state. She has lectured at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, University of Quebec in Montreal and University of Milano-Bicocca on religious anthropology of Nepal and the Himalayas.

Education, grants

  • 2009. Newton International Fellowship, Royal Society, London.
  • 2005. Grant for Specialization in History of Religions. Accademia dei Lincei, Rome.
  • 2004. Post-PhD. Grant, Fondation Fyssen, Paris. Research at UPR 299 “Milieux, Cultures et Sociétés en Himalaya”.
  • 2003. Ph.D. History of religions, University of Rome “La Sapienza”.
  • 2001-2003. Ph.D. Grant from the University of Rome “La Sapienza”.
  • 2000. Master Degree in Comparative Ethnology and Sociology, University of Paris-Nanterre, France.
  • 1998/1999. Italian Ministry of University and Scientific Research grant for a specialization in France.
  • 1997. B.A./M.A. History of Religions, University of Rome.

Memberships, networks

  • Since 2009, Member of the British Association for South Asian Studies (BASAS) and Member of the Britain-Nepal Academic Council (BNAC).
  • Since 2006, Member of the National Society of University Cultural Anthropologists, (ANUAC), Italy. Member of Centro di Ricerca Etno-antropologica Milano (Cream), Italy, and Co-founder and redactor of Rivista Studi Sudasiatici (RiSS).
  • Since 2005, Associate Member of UPR 299 “Milieux, Cultures et Sociétés en Himalaya”, France.

Selected Publications

  • Forthcoming:
    • "Buddha, Dharma and a new Sangha in Terai: on the creation of Buddhist ritual specialists in some Tharu and Magar communities (Rupandehi and Udayapur Districts)", in Proceedings of the International Conference Facing Globalization: shifting horizons of belonging in the Himalayas, Fréjus, Villa Clithya, September 18-20, 2008. Ed. Gérard Toffin, Johanna Pfaff-Czarnecka and David Gellner.
    • "L’abito rituale fa il monaco newar. Il rito di iniziazione delle alte caste buddhiste newar del Nepal", in Proceedings of the National Conference L’abito si che lo fa il monaco, Roma, Accademia di Romania, Novembre 22-23, 2007. Ed. S. Botta, A. Saggioro.
    • "The sacred confluence, between nature and culture", in Proceedings of the International Workshop The Categories of Nature and Culture in the Himalayas, CNRS, Villejuif, France, 27-28 February 2004. Ed. Marie Lecomte-Tilouine.
  • 2007. "Réflexions sur la notion de conversion dans la diffusion du bouddhisme Theravada au Népal", in Social and Political Dimensions of Religious Conversion, ed. P. Beaucauge and D. Meintel, Anthropologica 49/1 special issue: 51-66.
  • 2007. "La costruzione di un’identità buddhista in Nepal: l’esempio dei Tharu e dei Magar", in Politiche dell’identità, ed. R. Malighetti, 45-73. Roma: Meltemi Editore.
  • 2006. "Buddhismo come non-hinduismo. Su alcuni aspetti della diffusione del movimento theravada in Nepal", in Il buddhismo contemporaneo. Rappresentazioni, istituzioni, modernità, ed. M. Sernesi and F. Squarcini, 105-130. Firenze: SEF.
  • 2006. "Retourner au bouddhisme moderne des origines: remarques sur la diffusion du bouddhisme Theravada chez les Tharu et les Magar du Népal", Annales de la Fondation Fyssen 20: 69-78.
  • 2003. La dea bambina. Il culto della Kumari e la regalità in Nepal. Milano: FrancoAngeli.