Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Geography, James Madison University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Geography, University of Colorado / Boulder
Himalayan Highways: Intersecting Identities, Markets, and Geopolitics in Mustang, Nepal

My research examines how international politics and cultural identities intersect and are mutually constituted through development. My hypothesis is that road development projects in Nepal are geopolitical projects with cultural ramifications. To test this hypothesis, my primary research question asks: In what ways do Sino-Indian geopolitics affect Himalayan cultural identities and social relations through the socio-economic transformations of road development? Using roads as a lens to examine how development links politics and identities, I engage my main research question with three operational sub-questions: 1) How have Sino-Indian relations in Nepal influenced the development of road infrastructure in Mustang? 2) In what ways are new roads reconfiguring regional mobilities and introducing new commodities to Mustang? 3) How are mobilities and commodities creating new consumer subjects in Mustang and in what ways are these consumer subjectivities reshaping cultural identities and social relations in Mustang? To generate data that answer these questions, I will conduct ten months of ethnographic fieldwork in Nepal. My methods will include: archival research in Kathmandu on the histories and patterns of Chinese and Indian investments in road development in Nepal; quantitative analysis of changing commodity prices in Mustang over the course of recent road development projects from 2000-2012; and extensive qualitative interviews and focus groups on the connections between mobility, consumption, and social relations with traders and consumers in Mustang and Kathmandu. My objective is to produce valuable knowledge about the emerging ramifications of China and India's complex role in Nepal's development industry and establish a point of reference with which to evaluate the political and social implications of road developments across the wider Himalayan and Asian region.