Heritage and its Discontents: Newar Urbanism and the Political Economy of Everyday Life

Authors: Sabin Ninglekhu*, , Patrick Daly, Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Pia Hollenbach, University of Zurich
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Hazards and Vulnerability, Urban Geography
Keywords: Heritage, Kathmandu, Justice, City, Disaster, Planning
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8212, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The proposed paper draws on an ongoing ethnographic research project that investigates the politics of rebuilding taking place in the traditional Newar settlements in the Kathmandu Valley. The research takes up the ‘household’ as a primary unit of analysis to broach the issue of how claims of community for the right to rebuilding according to the heart’s desire come up against governmental programs seeking to institutionalize norms of ‘heritage’ that are coded into the rebuilding by-laws. While planning furnishes cultural preservation and economic revitalization as rationale for foregrounding ‘heritage’ in the rebuilding of private homes, such a mandate also creates economic challenges for ordinary households as heritage-centered design are expensive to build or restore. The research, as such, is located at the interface in which state-endorsed aspirational project of heritage confronts the everyday life of the ordinary filled with uncertainty. It is on this interface that this paper grapples with the following questions that may have normative implications for the field of planning, namely: What are the political-economic conditions of marginality that are reproduced through the cultural-spatial logic of ‘heritage’? How do local households and community reframe their identity and re-enact subjectivity in response to the state-endorsed heritage rebuilding by-laws? And finally, how do the preceding questions reveal the dynamics of exclusion to enable progressive politics of inclusion?

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