Reigning the river


I’ve been spending my days gingerly turning some old pages. Archival work goes slowly, not just because a great deal of it is still manual but because the objects themselves slow you down: old letter books have exceedingly thin pages, original speech pamphlets don’t stand all of the tests of time.

It has been interesting that there hasn’t been the same entropy of ideas in some cases. Today, for instance, I was reading how some 19th/20th century anthropologists conceptualized non-human agency, which is a topic of interest for many researchers today.

In the evenings I’ve been reading Anne Rademacher’s, Reigning the River: urban ecologies and political transformation in Kathmandu. It’s got a nicely put together website. So far I’m enjoying its interesting take on river restoration, politics, culture and history in Nepal. Here is the description from Duke University Press:

“A major contribution to the nascent anthropology of urban environments, Reigning the River illuminates the complexities of river restoration in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital and one of the fastest-growing cities in South Asia. In this rich ethnography, Anne M. Rademacher explores the ways that urban riverscape improvement involved multiple actors, each constructing ideals of restoration through contested histories and ideologies of belonging. She examines competing understandings of river restoration, particularly among bureaucrats in state and conservation-development agencies, cultural heritage activists, and advocates for the security of tens of thousands of rural-to-urban migrants settled along the exposed riverbed.

Rademacher conducted research during a volatile period in Nepal’s political history. As clashes between Maoist revolutionaries and the government intensified, the riverscape became a site of competing claims to a capital city that increasingly functioned as a last refuge from war-related violence. In this time of intense flux, efforts to ensure, create, or imagine ecological stability intersected with aspirations for political stability. Throughout her analysis, Rademacher emphasizes ecology as an important site of dislocation, entitlement, and cultural meaning.”

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