Restructuring Religiosity: Conflict, Disaster, and the Transformation of Sacred Space in Nepal

Monday January 22, 2024
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

The UBC South Asia Research Colloquium offers a forum for specialists in South Asia to share their research in front of an interdisciplinary audience. This seminar features speaker Sara Shneiderman (University of British Columbia, Anthropology and School for Public Policy & Global Affairs).

This talk draws upon one chapter of a book manuscript in progress to explore the relationships between religious, social, and political transformation through the intertwined (infra)structural biographies of several local temples and the newly emergent National Thami Museum in Dolakha, Nepal. Building upon twenty-five years of ethnographic engagement in the region, I explore how various nodes within this network of Indigenous and Hindu religious sites have developed—and undeveloped—in relation to political and environmental upheaval, and concomitant paradigms shifts for recognition and funding from both the Nepali state and international donors. I track how ever-evolving tropes of Indigeneity, secularism, marginality, vulnerability, risk, locality, and domestic tourism have shaped the built environment of religious and cultural practice over time, in relation to the shifting landscapes and forms of governance within which such structures are embedded. I argue that since 2015, the intersection of Nepal’s twin processes of post-conflict state restructuring (punar samrachana) and post-earthquake reconstruction (punar nirman) have led to the transformation of sacred space at several scales. These spatial transformations are in turn restructuring discourses and practices of religiosity for people whose lives move through these built forms. I tell the stories of both Hindu and Indigenous religious practitioners who have sought to make these spaces their own, reflecting upon their changing conceptualizations of religion, ethnicity, identity, and the state, in relation to the infrastructure of secularism and the divinities that animate their environment.

Date & Time:
Monday, January 22, 2024 | 12:30-2:00 PM (PT)

UBC Asian Centre, Room 604, 1871 West Mall, Vancouver

Hosted by the Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia, this event is open to the public.
Registration is required (please find the registration form above).