- Ms Bryony Whitmarsh
- Email address:
- Thesis title:
- 'The Narayanhiti Palace Museum: Memory, Power and National Identity'
- Year of Study:
- 3 (P/T)
I am a Senior Lecturer at Portsmouth School of Architecture, at the University of Portsmouth, where I teach across two disciplines – architecture and interior design, which share an interest in time and space, particularly experience of space.
Prior to joining the School of Architecture, I spent 10 years working within Museums and have an interest in material culture and its relationships to both memory and identity. Whilst the material evidence for my proposed research project is architecture, I am informed by the view that building, space and society are (re)constitutively connected. My research proposal outlines my interest in taking space as a starting point for a cultural analysis of the modernities of 19th and 20th Nepal.
It is my contention that the Palace reveals as much about the Nepal of which it forms a part as the Nepal it institutionalizes – the on-going transition from royal to republican Nepal.
On 26 February 2009 the Gaurishankar doors swung open to admit ordinary citizens into Nepal’s Narayanhiti Palace, marking its transformation from royal residence to Palace Museum. Its opening was announced on May 28 2008, following the end of a ten-year internal conflict (jan yuddha or ‘People’s War’), as Nepal was declared a Federal Republic and the 239 year-old monarchy was ended. I argue that the Palace Museum does more than mark the transition of Nepal from a monarchy to a republic; it embodies a paradox - the need to sever the royal past from the ‘republican’ present, yet maintain a sense of connection with the culture from which the nation’s identity has been derived.
My interests are in the relationships between political transformations and the processes under which the Palace has been inhabited and the spatial transitions it has undergone. I have identified three ‘moments’ to focus my research. Addressing the processes of inhabitation of the palace, they are; its construction as a palace, as the site of the royal massacre and its recent transformation as a museum.
A part of my recent fieldwork in Nepal (July 2013) has been an examination of the debates surrounding the Ganatantra Smarak (republic memorial) currently being built in the NE corner of the Narayanhiti site and how these reflect the construction of national identity against a backdrop of political turmoil. Articles in the Nepali press reveal that the memorial is the source of debate and confusion, both in terms of its location and design or even whether a memorial is the right course of action. It is apparent that the various interested (political) parties cannot agree on what the proper tone or overarching narrative should be. The constant re-positioning (the foundation stone of the memorial has been laid 4 times since 2009) and adjustment of the Ganatantra Smarak design demonstrates confusion over the construction of a new nation identity, for example, tensions between modernist notions of a unified nation-state and the reality of an ethnically diverse nation.
- Whitmarsh, Bryony. Nepal’s Narayanhiti Palace: A stage for the production of national identity? Presented at: Design History Society 2013 Annual Conference. 5-8 September 2013. Towards Global Histories of Design: Postcolonial Perspectives.
- Britain Nepal Academic Council
- British Association for South Asian Studies