Aftershock: reflections on the politics of reconstruction in Northern Gorkha

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Many commentators have described the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal either (1) through the notion that ‘nothing is going on’ in regards to postquake reconstruction; or (2) through a celebration of grassroots resilience and urban entrepreneurship in the face of disaster and state neglect. In this article, I draw on observations from Kutang and Nubri in the mountains of northern Gorkha District to argue that neither of these descriptions is fully accurate. Even in this remote and inaccessible area, much was being done in the aftermath of disaster, and a great deal of this activity diverges, in multiple ways, from the notions of spontaneous egalitarianism that are often associated with ‘resilience.’ I describe the fraught politics involved in distributing relief aid in a village where the local government has been non-existent for years; the active positioning of new political players on the local scene; and the economic inequalities that can arise from unlucky positioning along geological fault-lines, a recently booming tourist economy, and the specificities of the Nepali government’s post-disaster compensation schemes. This article sketches out the anatomy of disaster ‘aftershock’ as a political environment rife with opportunity, bias, and unintended consequences. As scholars and interested observers of Nepal and the Himalaya, we need to pay close attention to this environment and its potentially unequal outcomes that reverberate past this present moment of taking stock.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)55-64
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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