This three-year project aims to document and analyse the cultural and political impacts of Nepal’s 2015 earthquakes. The physical impact of a natural disaster such as a major earthquake is immediately visible: lost lives, displaced people, destroyed houses and a shattered cultural heritage. However, the longer-term impact and legacy of such an event is less apparent.
The project, which began on 1 April 2017, is structured along three distinct but inter-related themes.
First, it investigates the post-earthquake cultural and political discourse in Nepal. Nepal emerged from a ten-year civil war in 2006, and the country’s main political players then embarked upon the long process of transition from a monarchical Hindu state to a democratic federal republic. The 2015 earthquakes had a major impact upon this process. The project explores the ways in which they influenced the ongoing political, media and literary discourse on a number of key cultural, social and political issues.
Second, the project asks who it is that decides which elements of an aid-dependent country’s destroyed physical heritage are worth restoring. It investigates the extent to which the selection and prioritisation of sites and buildings for restoration is driven by what is held locally to be most ‘dear’, and to what extent by the evaluations of external donors and heritage experts.
Third, the project draws historical comparisons between the sociocultural and political impacts of the 2015 quakes and those of the major quakes that struck Nepal during earlier periods of political and cultural transition in 1833 and 1934. Archives in London, Delhi and Kathmandu are being explored for contemporaneous documentation.