American Ethnological Society
Oral Presentation Session
In Spring 2015, Nepal experienced two massive earthquakes. Later that year, the country’s constitution was ‘fast-tracked’ to a hurried conclusion after a nearly decade-long wait since the 2006 end of the country’s Maoist-state civil conflict. This paper considers how the temporal tool of the deadline has yielded particular political and material results within Nepal’s ongoing experience of transformation. Whether used to bring political actors from seven major parties to the bargaining table, or nearly 1 million individual householders to the local administrative office to begin their application for reconstruction subsidies, the deadline is a commonly experienced mediator of relationships between the Nepali state and its citizens. Familiarity with this temporal tool also leads to experimentation: when deadlines are believed to be extendable, they may not lead to the desired result. But even when deadlines are repeatedly extended—as they were both for Nepal’s constitution drafters and for homeowners seeking reconstruction subsidies—they effect significant political and material transformations on the ground. Individuals hedge their bets by building particular kinds of political and material structures that are at once possible to complete quickly, and open to expansion should timeframes allow. From the vantage point of 2019, four years after both the earthquakes and the constitution, this paper explores how the dual processes of post-conflict state restructuring and post-earthquake reconstruction intertwine at the experiential level to yield large-scale structural transformations—in which the deadline may both enable and constrain new forms of political and material life.