La.Lit Fellowships in Nonfiction: New Ethnographic Writing 2019

La.lit | September 27, 2019

La.Lit, in partnership with the Open Institute, is pleased to announce the second edition of the La.Lit Fellowships in Nonfiction: New Ethnographic Writing 2019. Up to six fellowships will be provided over a period of nine months to help emerging and established Nepali writers and Nepal residents. They will get to immerse themselves in a field context to explore facets of societies, cultures and environments we live in. The NEW Fellowships aim to produce high-quality, research-driven writing.

Selected fellows will receive financial support of up to Rs. 50,000 to conduct their fieldwork and research along with technical and editorial support, including workshops, seminars and individualized support. The writing produced through the fellowships will be published by La.Lit.

The objective of the NEW Fellowships is to go beyond conventional descriptions of specific places or communities in Nepal in order to delve into the complexity and texture of the modern Nepali experience. We see new ethnographic writing arising from an impulse to describe the conceptual and experiential point of view of a particular group of people, revealing their engagements with the broader world. An ethnographic essay could certainly be about traditional topics such as “Limbu shamans”, but we are more interested in newer social alignments: student activism, NGO culture, local governance, hip-hop battles, refugees, the day-to-day operation of rural health posts, Christian converts, etc. By providing Fellowships as well as technical and editorial support we hope to foster new writing and writers that will contribute to a more nuanced understanding of Nepal in rural and urban contexts.

Fellowship Components

The 2019 NEW Fellowships are supposed to cover a nine month period from November 2019 to August 2020. Of the nine months, the first month or two will be dedicated to reading seminars and research workshops. Fellows are expected to spend 4-8 weeks over the course of the fellowship conducting their research. They will receive editorial support to write their piece throughout the duration of the fellowship. The final pieces are expected to be over 3000 words in length. To this end, the fellowship has the following broad components:

+Reading seminars: Writers selected for a Fellowship will participate in workshops exploring a range of good ethnographic writing and various research methodologies used in ethnography.
+Research review sessions: Fellows will attend periodic research review sessions to help guide their research.
+Writing workshop: Fellows will attend a writing workshop to receive feedback from their peers and the La.Lit editorial team.
+Individualized support: Fellows can request mentorship to design their fieldwork and research along with inputs about their writing.
+Financial support: Fellows can request financial support of up to Rs. 50,000 to cover for fieldwork and research expenses for up to three months.
+Publication: The best writing will be published in either an upcoming print edition of La.Lit or on its online portal (

Application Process
1) Applicants will be required to fill an online form ( and send in the following to by Oct 19, 2019:
2) CV
3) Synopsis of writing project OR personal statement (Max. 800 words)
4) Writing Samples (1 to 4 samples, each totaling no more than 5000 words)

Short-listed applicants will be called for a round of interviews.

What the NEW Fellowship does not fund
1) Fiction or poetry
2) Memoirs, personal essays or thought pieces
3) Project ideas built primarily upon archival research
4) Projects that cannot be achieved within 2-3 months of fieldwork
5) Projects based outside Nepal
6) Audio-visual or artistic output

Frequently Asked Questions

1) I don’t have a project idea, but want to improve my writing. Can I apply?
Yes, the fellowships are open to anyone interested in this particular type of writing. If you do not have an idea please share a personal statement telling us why you are interested in a Fellowship.

2) I have conducted or am conducting research for my Masters/PhD program. Will I be able to use my research for the fellowship?
Since the NEW Fellowships are meant for research, we will prioritize research ideas that have not been done before. You are free to pitch an idea around the same idea, area or people that your previous research was on, but what you attempt to explore should be new to you as much as it is new to us.

3) Does my project idea have to be based outside of the Kathmandu Valley?
We welcome project ideas that explore both urban and rural settings. If you would like to do research close to home, then we would like to see a detailed research plan.

4) Can I break my research period into short visits over a few months?
Yes, you can, but you would have to justify it. We would like to see researchers immerse themselves into their research area for a substantial amount of time.

5) How long do the final pieces have to be?
The final piece can be anywhere from 3000 to 8000 words in length.

6) What if during the course of my research, I find something more interesting to write about, do I have the freedom to change my area of focus?
Yes, we anticipate that once you start your research, your research focus may change.

7) Do you have examples of the type of writing you are looking for?
The type of writing we are looking for is a mix that takes the best of academic ethnographic writing and journalism. We would like to see fellows produce content that is built on research but utilizes the best elements of storytelling and exploration that we normally find in good journalism.

8) Would a profile or biography of a person be an acceptable?
A profile or biography that explores not just a person, but various levels of social, cultural, economic, environmental or religious intersections they exist in would be interesting to us. We are open to a variety of different writing styles and approaches as long as it meets our criteria of being built upon sound research and is enjoyable to read.

9) I am not sure about my idea, can I write to you or meet you to see if it is suitable?
Yes, we are happy to meet and/or discuss ideas over email or in person.

10) Will the money for the fellowship be provided at the beginning or in installments?
We will decide this depending upon your research plan.

11) Do I need to be a Nepali citizen or living in Nepal to apply for a NEW Fellowship?
No, but you have to be residing in Nepal during the tenure of the Fellowship.

12) What are you looking for in a writing sample?
A good sense of your skill as a writer, and ideally evidence of your ability to use research (field or archival) to support your arguments. The writing can be in any genre, but should capture what you consider to be your best writing.

13) When will applicants be notified?
All applicants will be notified by late Oct 20.

14) Can you give me feedback on my writing sample or tell me why I wasn’t selected for a Fellowship?
We cannot provide any comments on applications that are not selected for further consideration.

15) I write fiction/screenplays/graphic novels/children’s books. Am I eligible?
The NEW Fellowships are open to all kinds of writers, but being genre-specific, will only be awarded to applicants who can demonstrate (through their writing samples and interview) that they are qualified to produce research-driven, high-quality non-fiction writing.

16) If offered a NEW Fellowship, may I defer acceptance to another year?
You may not defer acceptance, but you are welcome to apply to succeeding editions of the NEW Fellowships.

17) If I am not awarded a Fellowship, may I reapply?
If you are not awarded a Fellowship, we encourage you to reapply the following year.

For further information, please write to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *