From politics of culture to politics of justice
Nepal promulgated its constitution on 20 September—the first after ending the monarchy, and one replacing the interim constitution in place since 2007. That interim constitution had been put in place to mark the peace agreement with the Nepali Maoists, mainstreaming them into democratic politics and unarming them under the UN mediation. While there were other obstacles in finalizing the constitution, the hardest nut to crack has been the issue of federalism because it involved finding a way to work Nepal’s multiple ethnic and regional identities into the mono-ethnic nationalism institutionalized by the state thus far.
The study of urban activist practices has recently gained currency within anthropology (see Graeber 2013; Harvey 2012; Karakatzanis 2013; Lazar 2008; Nash 2004; Smith 1999). In line with this trend, the anthropological interest in urban activism has increased also in South Asia (Aiyer 2007; Baviskar 1998; Dorron 2008; Subramaniam 2009). However, much of this new scholarship remains trapped in a “methodological nationalism” that focuses explicitly on India. Gellner’s (2010) volume on the varieties of activist experiences—which covers areas other than India, including Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka—remains a notable exception. Yet, for urban small towns in Nepal, there remains a relative public dearth of published scholarship despite an existing urban activist scene.1