Sara Shneiderman (PhD, Cornell University, 2009) is Assistant Professor in Anthropology and the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia. She is the author of Rituals of Ethnicity: Thangmi Identities Between Nepal and India (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), along with several articles on the themes of Nepal’s Maoist and indigenous movements; ethnic classification, affirmative action, and the politics of recognition in South Asia; and borders and citizenship in the Himalaya. Her current research explores the politics of reconstruction in Nepal’s post-conflict, post-disaster transformation, focusing on dynamics of citizenship, territory and religiosity, and is funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
How do we imagine the ideal state that we aspire to live in? In the wake of a decade-long civil conflict between Maoist and state forces, citizens of Nepal had the rare opportunity to do just this through a process of “post-conflict” state restructuring between 2006-2015. I argue that a widespread sense of positive social transformation experienced during this period of political liminality directly affected responses to the crises of 2015: earthquakes and a new, imperfect constitution. Through an ethnographic exploration of the administrative and affective domains of citizenship, territory, and religiosity during Nepal’s ongoing transformation, I revisit anthropological questions about the relationships between imaginaries of structure and order on the one hand, and political aspiration, mobilization, and revolution on the other. This ethnography of restructuring suggests that the emergent state of Nepal is at once a deeply sovereign, and globally produced, form that offers insights into broader debates over the nature of “the political” today.