A Bubble that Doesn’t Pop: Kinship and Landownership in Post-disaster Kathmandu

My current book project explores the formation of landownership and land value in urban Kathmandu. Utilising as my primary case the reconstruction period after the Great Nepal Earthquake, I draw on ethnographic data to analyse numerous transactions: land sales, land collateralisation, the division of inheritance amongst rightful kin, the formalisation of family ownership, and the registration of victimhood. I show how all these transactions created a market where the price of land seemingly never goes down. I then argue that this market buoyancy cannot be explained purely through formal economics. Rather, residents twist “modern” market techniques—techniques built on the assumption of fluid value—to address their concerns over stability and kin amity. I show how this practice converges on a major issue in contemporary capitalism: that while value extraction continues at pace around the globe, the stable storage of such value is becoming increasingly difficult, especially for families in the Global South.

Home is Made to Slip: Return Migration in Urban Nepal

This project explores return labour migration in Kathmandu. Due to its young population and anaemic job market, about 1500 Nepalis leave Nepal each day to work in the Middle East, India, East Asia, and Western countries. Most of these migrants do so, however, with the intention of returning, indeed building families in Nepal on their sporadic trips home. My project follows these migrant workers when they finally decide to return home permanently. Centred on Kathmandu—where numerous families of migrants have emigrated—I analyse how returning migrants attempt to parlay their experiences and savings abroad into a stable life, through entrepreneurial ventures, investments, or the pursuit of wage labour. I also analyse what happens when such ventures fail, and migrants must again return to foreign countries, delaying the moment of stable reunification.

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