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China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Nepal: National Imaginaries, Ethnographic Anxieties, and Geopolitical Power

November 5, 2020 @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm

China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Nepal: National Imaginaries, Ethnographic Anxieties, and Geopolitical Power

BRINFAITH RELIGION AND EMPIRE PUBLIC LECTURE SERIES

China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Nepal: National Imaginaries, Ethnographic Anxieties, and Geopolitical Power

 

Speaker:
Dr. Galen Murton (Assistant Professor of Geographic Science, James Madison University)
Date/Time:
November 5, 2020, 8:00 pm (HK time)
Language: English
Venue: Via Zoom
ABSTRACT
This talk examines China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Nepal to argue that infrastructure is a symbolic project of national development imaginaries, a process and practice of state formation, and a vector for the spatial operations of geopolitical power. Contextualized by a five-year development trajectory and accentuated with agreements from the Second Belt and Road Forum in May 2019, I show how BRI programs in Nepal reflect a new phase of Sino-Nepali geopolitics which I conceptualize as ‘infrastructural relations.’ While these infrastructural relations between Beijing and Kathmandu are routinely framed at geopolitical scales, it is also evident that they operate at personal and bodily levels. That is, attention to BRI activities in Nepal’s borderland regions, where Tibetan religious and linguistic practices proliferate, reveals that ethnographic anxieties also motivate China’s international infrastructure development agenda. Highlighting the cultural dimensions often hidden within broader geopolitical discourse on the BRI in Nepal, I unpack how new configurations of bilateral energy, transport, and security collaboration between Nepal and China also index a new model of development with Chinese characteristics in the trans-Himalaya region.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Galen Murton is Assistant Professor of Geographic Science at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA. Trained in human geography, international relations, and comparative religion, he is broadly interested in the politics of the international development, and especially how power operates spatially through the material and social forms of infrastructure. In 2018 – 19, he was a Marie S. Curie Action Fellow at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and completed the project “Road Diplomacy: International Infrastructure and Ethnography of Geopolitics in 21st Century Asia”. He recently published special issues in Political Geography, Studies in Nepali History and Society (SINHAS), and Roadsides and his co-edited volume Highways and Hierarchies: Ethnographies of Mobility from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean is forthcoming in 2021 from Amsterdam University Press.
ORGANIZER
The event is organized by the CRF Project “Infrastructures of Faith: Religious Mobilities on the Belt and Road [BRINFAITH]” (RGC CRF HKU C7052-18G), which is hosted by the ASIAR – Asian Religious Connections Research Cluster in HKIHSS.

Details

Date:
November 5, 2020
Time:
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Event Category:

Venue

Via Zoom (Registration required)

Organizer

BRINFAITH