Traditional Infrastructure, Modern Flows: Cultural Politics of Modernization in the Kathmandu Valley
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The Kathmandu Valley’s ancient stone spouts system provides a case study to understand uneven processes of urban modernization. Interviews and archival material from fieldwork in the Lalitpur District of Kathmandu provide evidence to understand the role of traditional infrastructure in modernization efforts. Rather than assuming there is something inherently traditional or modern, my research investigates ways in which people position themselves around ideas of tradition and see infrastructure as more than operational. Findings indicate that the labeling of the stone spout system as traditional through modes of use, management, valorization, and modification point to a dissatisfaction with modern development. This research provides a contemporary example of the traditional, demonstrating that despite dominant urban theorizing, urban modernization and the erasure of tradition are an impossible and incomplete process. These findings extend post-colonial urban scholarship by considering cities beyond limiting and universalizing categories of development. This thesis includes unpublished coauthored material.