Nobody stops and stays anymore

Motor roads, uneven mobilities, and conceptualizing borderland modernity in highland Nepal

Authored by: Murton Galen

Routledge Handbook of Asian Borderlands

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138917507
eBook ISBN: 9781315688978
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter examines the expansion of motor roads in Nepal’s northern borderland district of Mustang in order to understand how access and exclusion to new mobilities reinscribe social hierarchies in borderland spaces. Focusing the study on the shifting cultural practices of trans-Himalayan nyetsang social systems and an expanding tourism sector in Mustang, this case represents a broader dynamic of social change reflected in wider experiences with infrastructure development, state formation, and penetrations of capital relations across the Asian borderlands. Employing a conceptual framework of mobility and containment, the chapter argues that local experiences with new mobilities at once transform social and economic relations across trans-Himalayan spaces and undergird material practices that produce space for both markets and the Nepali state to take shape through new mechanisms of containment. Pointing towards congruent dynamics across other Asian borderlands, I introduce borderland modernity as a rapidly expanding and internationalized experience with globalization in highland Asia, accelerated by road infrastructure and characterized by new consumer practices, capital circulations, and state bureaucracy in non-urban places.

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