Organized Panel Session
For Nepal, a non-colonized nation-state of South Asia, the negotiation of sovereignty has long been an internal struggle. Geopolitics hardened international borders, but the character of the nation-state has been shaped by perennial contests over the nature of authority and autonomy across diverse landscapes of peoples, environments, and political entities within Nepali state space. We observe echoes of past episodes of statemaking in the present as Nepal shifts from a unitary, largely centralized, state to a decentralized federal state; Yet we also acknowledge the impact of extra-territorial networks on the expression of a “New Nepal.” To further interpretation and understanding of South Asian sovereignty, this panel brings historians and anthropologists together to query the spatial dynamics of autonomy and authority expressed in 18th to 21st century Nepal. Papers include discussions of subject populations concepts of justice deliverance and the expansion of state power in early modern eastern Nepal; debates over territorial divisions and images of solid states amongst public intellectuals of the constitutional State Restructuring Committee; and the circulation of the popular claim “Buddha was born in Nepal” by micro-celebrities in the public sphere of Youtube to underwrite diasporic citizenship. Grounded in specific historical moments, the panelists take up the theme of space in physical, representational, and virtual forms, creating connections and contrasts from which to explore the significance of space in the sovereignty of Nepal. Insights from Nepal have the potential to broaden understanding of South Asian and crypto-colonial sovereignty more generally, and this panel contributes to this endeavor.