Deadlining: Temporality and Transformation in Nepal’s Post-Conflict, Post-Disaster Reconstruction

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Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Monday, December 2, 20193:00PM - 5:00PM108N, North House, Munk School of Global 1 Devonshire Place, Toronto, ON, M5S 3K7
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In Spring 2015, Nepal experienced two massive earthquakes. Later that year, the country’s constitution was ‘fast-tracked’ to a hurried conclusion after a nearly decade-long wait since the 2006 end of the country’s Maoist-state civil conflict. This paper considers how the temporal tool of the deadline has yielded particular political and material results within Nepal’s ongoing experience of transformation. Whether used to bring political actors from seven major parties to the bargaining table, or nearly 1 million individual householders to the local administrative office to begin their application for reconstruction subsidies, the deadline is a commonly experienced mediator of relationships between the Nepali state and its citizens. Familiarity with this temporal tool also leads to experimentation: when deadlines are believed to be extendable, they may not lead to the desired result. But even when deadlines are repeatedly extended—as they were both for Nepal’s constitution drafters and for homeowners seeking reconstruction subsidies—they effect significant political and material transformations on the ground. Individuals hedge their bets by building particular kinds of political and material structures that are at once possible to complete quickly, and open to expansion should timeframes allow. From the vantage point of 2019, four years after both the earthquakes and the constitution, this paper explores how the dual processes of post-conflict state restructuring and post-earthquake reconstruction intertwine at the experiential level to yield large-scale structural transformations—in which the deadline may both enable and constrain new forms of political and material life.

Sara Shneiderman is Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC), in the Department of Anthropology and the Institute of Asian Research at UBC’s School of Public Policy & Global Affairs. She is the author of Rituals of Ethnicity: Thangmi Identities Between Nepal and India(University of Pennsylvania Press 2015; winner of the 2017 James Fisher Prize for First Books on the Himalayan Region) and co-editor of Darjeeling Reconsidered: Histories, Politics, Environments (Oxford University Press, 2018). She has also published widely on the themes of ethnicity, mobility, citizenship, and borders in the Himalayas and South Asia. Her current transdisciplinary research partnership funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) focuses on the social and political dimensions of post-earthquake reconstruction in Nepal in collaboration with Social Science Baha, the Department of Anthropology at Tribhuvan University, and several other partners. At UBC, she coordinates the Himalaya Program, and served as Co-Director of the Centre for India and South Asia Research from 2017-2019.


Sara Shneiderman
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and the Institute of Asian Research at UBC’s School of Public Policy & Global Affairs, University of British Columbia


Centre for South Asian Studies, Asian Institute

Department of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

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