Articles, Book Chapters, and Essays
2019. “Remembering and Remaking Nepal’s Founder: A Visual History of Prithvinarayan Shah.” Co-authored with Avash Bhandari. Tasveer Ghar: A Digital Archive of South Asian Popular Digital Culture.
South Asia has many traditions of nationalist iconography of divine mother figures. In this essay, however, we focus on the history of visual representation of Nepal’s national founding father, Prithvinarayan Shah (r. 1742–75). The history of visual representation of Prithvinarayan Shah is a particularly interesting lens through which to examine Nepali nationalism because of the fact that his legacy is highly controversial in contemporary Nepal. The king from Gorkha is hailed by many as the nation-builder (rastranirmata), statesman par excellence, and the symbol of national unity for his role in the territorial unification of modern Nepal in the 18th century. On the other hand, many see him as a ruthless conqueror, a warlord, and an imperialist whose legacy of conquest casts a shadow over Nepali society even to this day. Consequently, images of Prithvinarayan Shah play a key role in ideological and political debates over the Nepali past and future.
2017. “Citizenship in the Name of the Mother: Nationalism, Social Exclusion, and Gender in Contemporary Nepal.” Co-authored with Barbara Grossman-Thompson. Positions: Asia Critique 25(4): 795-820.
In 2006, the Nepali government made it feasible for women to pass citizenship on to their children. In 2015, a new constitution overrode these gains and again made it impossible to grant citizenship through the maternal line alone. Nepal’s current gender-discriminatory citizenship laws are rooted in historical social and geo-political tensions with India, especially nationalistic fears about Indian encroachment into Nepali territory and politics. Resurgent resistance to equitable citizenship laws does not simply reflect hegemonic Hindu patriarchal norms, but is also a reactive stance against Indian influence as embodied by the real and potential coupling of Nepali women and Indian men whose children would further “Indianize” Nepal. This article suggests that restricting Nepali women’s right to pass citizenship is a form of policing the boundaries of the state body via policing women’s bodies, especially their reproductive capabilities.
2017: “Mediating Claims to Buddha’s Birthplace and Nepali National Identity.” In Media as Politics in South Asia, edited by Sahana Udupa and Stephen McDowell. pp. 176-189. London: Routledge.
The claim that “Buddha was Born in Nepal” is pervasive in popular and political discourses on Nepali national identity. On one hand, the claim is frequently deployed as an assertion of a unified and proud Nepal, characterized by peace and harmony. On the other hand, the claim has been used to challenge hegemonic notions of Nepal as a land of religious and social inclusion. This chapter traces these debates through a variety of media, including rapidly-expanding online and social media platforms, and argues that the rise of these new media are likely to contribute significantly to shaping emergent forms of Nepali nationalism.
2017: “On the Road to Nowhere: Stalled Politics and Urban Infrastructure in Kathmandu.” Himalaya 37(1): 98-106.
During the period leading up to the passage of the 2015 constitution, the roads of Kathmandu were often interpreted by the city’s residents as symbols of the stalled constitutional process and of the faltering and corrupt nature of national politics in general. By detailing specific moments in which the inadequacy of roads and the inadequacy of the state were directly juxtaposed in everyday conversations, this article calls for sustained attention to the interrelationship between urban infrastructure and national- and local-level politics.
2016: “Fifty-Three Kilos.” Anthropology and Humanism 41(2): 206-2011.
In this short piece of ethnographic fiction, an anthropologist helps her friend Srijana pack suitcases in preparation for an upcoming trip from Kathmandu to Portland. Srijana’s choices about what to take and what to leave behind illustrate the interpersonal connections encoded in material objects and illuminate the complex web of relationships between family members in Nepal and North America.
Literature Review Essays
2018: “Challenging the State of Exception: New Ethnographies of International Migration and Its Constraints.” Political and Legal Anthropology Review (pre-publication version available online).
2017: “Increasing the Civic and Political Participation of Women: Understanding the Risk of Strong Resistance.” Literature review published by Institute of International Education and USAID. Co-authored with Swati Chawla, Vanessa Ochs, Paromita Sen, Diana Catalina Vallejo Pedraza, and Denise Walsh.
Book Reviews and Other Publications
2018: Review of Unsettling India: Affect, Temporality, Transnationality by Purnima Mankekar. 2015. American Ethnologist 45(2): 301-302.
2017: Review of Everyday Conversions: Islam, Domestic Work, and South Asian Migrant Women in Kuwait, by Attiya Ahmad. 2017. LSE Review of Books.
2017: Review of Voicing Subjects: Public Intimacy and Mediation in Kathmandu, by Laura Kunreuther. 2014. Studies in Nepali History and Society 22(1).
2015: Review of Tamil Brahmans: The Making of a Middle-Class Caste, by C. J. Fuller and Haripriya Narasimhan. 2014. LSE Review of Books.
2014: Review of Constitutional Nationalism and Legal Exclusion: Equality, Identity Politics, and Democracy in Nepal by Mara Malagodi. 2013. Himalaya 34(1): 150-151.
2014: “Academics Must Visit These Bookshops in Kathmandu, Nepal.” Blog post for LSE Review of Books.