Orientations Toward the Future: The Affects and Temporalities of Infrastructure Development in Lapchi

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Pathbreakers: New Postdoctoral Research on South Asia at U of T


Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in the Lapchi region of northern Nepal, this talk explores how cross-border pastoral communities reassess their expectations of the future within the current moment of state-driven infrastructure development and securitization across the Nepal-China borderland. People in Lapchi are dependent on access to grasslands and markets in neighboring China, but increasing restrictions on trade and movement across the border, exacerbated by the global Covid-19 pandemic, are causing plausible fear of economic precarity. In this uncertain present, a planned hydropower project and road produce significant affects for the local community. People hope that these development programs will bring alternative opportunities and new mobilities by opening the region up to trekking and tourism industries. As the anticipation of possible infrastructural futures shapes unprecedented socio-economic logics in the present, a historically mobile pastoral community is paradoxically transforming into more sedentary ways of life.

Nadine Plachta is a FAS Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Geography and Planning. Her work focuses on social and cultural transformations in contemporary Nepal and, in particular, the use of citizenship and belonging as a resource for governance and economic development. She has explored this theme in the context of infrastructural politics, natural resource conflicts, landscape transformation, and the construction of local ecological knowledge. Her most recent research explores how borderland communities reassess their expectations of the future within recurring situations of disaster and crisis. Her scholarship is based on long-term ethnographic engagement in South Asia and, especially, in Nepal where she lived and worked for Heidelberg University’s South Asia Institute for five years (2014–2019). Nadine is also Editorial Team Member of Roadsides, as well as Book Reviews Editor of Himalaya, the Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies.


Nadine Plachta
FAS Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Geography and Planning, U of T

Katharine Rankin
Professor, Department of Geography and Planning, U of T

Christoph Emmrich
Director, Centre for South Asian Studies, U of T

Main Sponsor

Asian Institute


Centre for South Asian Studies

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