Rune Bennike is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen. He is currently conducting research on the formation of local political authority in rural Nepal as part of the Rule and Rupture research program as well as working on the individual research project Aftershock: Nature, Tourism and the Political Economy of Post-Disaster.
Many commentators have described the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal either (1) through the notion that ‘nothing is going on’ in regards to postquake reconstruction; or (2) through a celebration of grassroots resilience and urban entrepreneurship in the face of disaster and state neglect. In this article, I draw on observations from Kutang and Nubri in the mountains of northern Gorkha District to argue that neither of these descriptions is fully accurate. Even in this remote and inaccessible area, much was being done in the aftermath of disaster, and a great deal of this activity diverges, in multiple ways, from the notions of spontaneous egalitarianism that are often associated with ‘resilience.’ I describe the fraught politics involved in distributing relief aid in a village where the local government has been non-existent for years; the active positioning of new political players on the local scene; and the economic inequalities that can arise from unlucky positioning along geological fault-lines, a recently booming tourist economy, and the specificities of the Nepali government’s post-disaster compensation schemes. This article sketches out the anatomy of disaster ‘aftershock’ as a political environment rife with opportunity, bias, and unintended consequences. As scholars and interested observers of Nepal and the Himalaya, we need to pay close attention to this environment and its potentially unequal outcomes that reverberate past this present moment of taking stock.
The author would like to thank Geoff Childs and colleagues at the Rule and Rupture Research Program as well as one anonymous reviewer for incisive comments to drafts of the article. Research for the article was supported by the European Research Council.
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Bennike, Rune Bolding. 2017. Aftershock: Reflections on the Politics of Reconstruction in Northern Gorkha. HIMALAYA 37(2).
Available at: https://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/himalaya/vol37/iss2/9