Rebuilding the Foundations: Urban governance and democratic citizenship in post-earthquake Nepal

“Earthquakes cause devastation in order to change the world, or at least the kingdom. In our country Nepal, earthquakes rocked the nation in 13th, 15th, and 17th century of Vikram Era…Will this earthquake too bring about the similar changes as the quake of v.s. 1890 (1833) did? For the people, of course, things would come and go… After some time, things could transform into stories…” – Vigoman Shrestha (2009 v.s. [1952]), quoted by Yogesh Raj in History as Mindscapes (2067 v.s. [2010])

My dissertation investigates the politics of disasters using mixed methods with a subnational, comparative design in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. It asks 1.) how and why the reconstruction process varies among communities and 2.) how the reconstruction process affects political behavior. It compares reconstruction in three urban centers – Kathmandu, Lalitpur (Patan), and Bhaktapur – after the 2015 Gorkha earthquake drawing upon events from the 1900s to today, including an urban development project, land reform, and the 1934 Nepal-Bihar earthquake. The project contributes to literatures in comparative politics, the political economy of public goods provision and development, governance, ethnicity and heritage, and state-society relations.

Side of a brick wall with white wooden windows leaning on it on the ground. Building had cracks from the earthquake

Photo taken during fieldwork in February 2020

Six months of fieldwork and language-training from the years 2018-2020 were funded by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies. The project has been awarded funds by the Boren Fellowship and the J. William Fulbright U.S. Student Program Fellowship. Nepal-based affiliates include the Institute of Engineering (IoE) in Pulchowk, the Samaanta Foundation, and the Martin Chautari Research Group. Suraj Parajuli has assisted with data collection.

Committee members: Jaimie Bleck (co-chair), Jeff Harden (co-chair), Aníbal Pérez Liñan, A. James McAdams, Karrie Koesel, and Adam Auerbach (external reader)

Fallen brick building and a pile of bricks
Photo taken during fieldwork in February 2020