Voicing Subjects

Voicing Subjects: Public Intimacy and Mediation in Kathmandu

Laura Kunreuther
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 319
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt5vjzqf
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  • Book Info
    Voicing Subjects
    Book Description:

    Voicing Subjectstraces the relation between public speech and notions of personal interiority in Kathmandu. It explores two seemingly distinct formations of voice that have emerged in the midst of the country's recent political and economic upheavals: a political voice associated with civic empowerment and collective agency, and an intimate voice associated with emotional proximity and authentic feeling. Both are produced and circulated through the media, especially through interactive technologies. The author argues that these two formations of voice are mutually constitutive and aligned with modern ideologies of democracy and neoliberal economic projects. This ethnography is set during an extraordinary period in Nepal's history that has seen a relatively peaceful 1990 revolution that re-established democracy, a Maoist civil war, and the massacre of the royal family. These dramatic changes have been accompanied by the proliferation of intimate and political discourse in the expanding public sphere, making the figure of voice ever more critical to an understanding of emerging subjectivity, structural change and cultural mediation.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95806-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. AUTHOR’S NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION AND PSEUDONYMS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. INTRODUCTION: Public Intimacy and Voicing Subjects in Kathmandu
    (pp. 1-41)

    IN THE LATE MONSOON MONTH of September 1989, during my first visit to Nepal, I was given a tour of Kathmandu by my Nepali friend Raj Gopal on the back of his motorcycle. During our first meeting earlier that morning, inside his office, he told me that Nepal was in a critical state. People were angry with the king. Something was bound to happensoon.He did not know what, but it was certain to be violent. People wanted to be able to speak more freely, he told me, and for this they will fight. Raj Gopal, a young man...

  7. ONE Intimate Callings and Voices of Reform: LAW, PROPERTY, AND FAMILIAL LOVE
    (pp. 42-86)

    ON A SPRING AFTERNOON IN 1998, I witnessed a small event in Nepal that was a common sight at the time. Several young women, dressed in saris and sandals, were standing at the central Palace Square of Patan (a city adjacent to Kathmandu). Behind them lay a white sheet draped across the palace stones and decorated with hundreds of signatures scribbled in thick magic marker that they later paraded around the city. This was one of the numerous demonstrations organized around the hotly debated legal movement that argued for a daughter’s birthright to her parent’s ancestral property orangsa.¹Angsa...

  8. TWO Seeing Face and Hearing Voice: TACTILE VISION AND SIGNS OF PRESENCE
    (pp. 87-123)

    IN THE COURSE OF FIELDWORK, small, passing comments will occasionally strike the ethnographer as unusual, unexpected, or not entirely comprehensible. More oft en than not, such offhand remarks—words that, while striking or odd, seem to lie outside one’s field of study—are noted, and if they do not occur again they are gradually forgotten. Sometimes such words are simply disregarded as individual idiosyncratic remarks that do not have much bearing on broader cultural or social questions. But sometimes there are turns of phrase, figures of speech, or unexpected metaphors that stay in the back of one’s mind and recur...

  9. THREE Making Waves: THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL CONTEXT OF FM RADIO
    (pp. 124-160)

    THEJANA ĀNDOLAN(PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT) of 1990 can be aptly called a revolution of the voice. As it unfolded, personal subjectivities and landscapes of political discourse were remade. Th is reorientation of the political and intimate voice in Nepali public life has been closely associated with the rising importance of FM radio as a central cultural medium. The reestablishment of party democracy enabled a host of previously suppressed political parties to voice their demands in public, and the very idea of free speech quickly acquired social currency in Kathmandu in realms typically understood to be “political” as well as in...

  10. FOUR Mero Kathā, Mero Gīt: AFFECTIVE PUBLICS, PUBLIC INTIMACY, AND VOICED WRITING
    (pp. 161-214)

    BEGINNING IN THE SPRING OF 1997, every Thursday at noon, college students, factory workers, taxi drivers, bronze casters, and housewives in the Kathmandu Valley would turn on their FM radio and listen to Kalyan Gautum’s soothing voice. Among the most popular programs on FM radio during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Kalyan’sMero Kathā, Mero Git(My story, my song) exemplifies the talk and writing about one’s personal life that has become ubiquitous on Kathmandu’s FM radio stations, in some ways similar to mass media around the world. Kalyan beginsMero Kathā, Mero Gitwith instructions to his listeners,...

  11. FIVE Diasporic Voices: SOUNDS OF THE DIASPORA IN KATHMANDU
    (pp. 215-241)

    TECHNOLOGIES OF THE VOICE ALLEVIATE and aggravate Nepali dreams of contact across great distances. Fantasies of escaping the Maoist civil war and of earning enough money to support a middle-class life in Nepal are constantly belied by stories about the difficult and sometimes outright horrific conditions of work abroad. This contradiction produces anxieties that loom large, making the material and symbolic presence of the Nepali diaspora increasingly important to urban sociality in Kathmandu.¹

    In this chapter, we turn to another affective public constituted by FM radio and by broad social and economic transformations that have dramatically affected the landscape of...

  12. EPILOGUE: Royal Victims, Voicing Subjects
    (pp. 242-254)

    ROUGHLY A DECADE AFTER THE firstjana āndolan(People’s Movement), King Bir Birendra Bikram Shah Dev, Queen Aishwarya, and their entire immediate family were murdered. The massacre occurred on the evening of Friday June 1, 2001, during a family dinner party at the royal palace in the heart of Kathmandu, where ten members of the palace’s inner circle were shot to death. Reports emerged in the days that followed declaring that Crown Prince Dipendra was the killer, who after single-handedly having murdered most of his family finally turned one of his many deadly weapons on himself. The official version of...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 255-272)
  14. REFERENCES
    (pp. 273-290)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 291-304)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-306)