Arora V (2023) The Politics of Post-Disaster Reconstruction of Heritage [Reconstruction as recovery:The politics behind why heritage is funded internationally, nationally, and locally]. In: Jigyasu R & Chmutina K (eds.) Routledge Handbook on Cultural Heritage and Disaster Risk Management. 1 ed. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge.
This chapter examines the complexities of funding and planning for post-disaster reconstruction of built heritage, focusing on the ongoing recovery in Nepal in the aftermath of the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake. Reconstruction of heritage in Nepal has been uneven and fragmented. This is partly due to the conflicts that arise when global heritage and disaster frameworks informed by Western ontologies and discourses, and operationalised through international aid and expertise, are required to address local politics and practices. While post-disaster reconstruction in Nepal has long been embedded within its building traditions given the frequency of earthquakes and prevalence of other ecological hazards in the region, the introduction of international discourse and policy in heritage and disaster risk reduction have each had significant impacts on all aspects of this practice. The most prominent examples of this impact and the tensions it has generated were visible across various reconstruction projects in the Kathmandu Valley, which is at the political and economic heart of the country and is home to most of Nepal’s globally recognised heritage sites.
This chapter will illustrate the ways in which local and global politics converge and oppose each other and discuss the ways in which post-disaster reconstruction acts as a venue for the negotiation of political aspirations and agendas. It will describe the trajectories of reconstruction in the Kathmandu Valley, focusing on its UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Bhaktapur Durbar Square and the designated heritage precinct of Bhaktapur’s ‘core city’. Reconstruction of heritage in Bhaktapur has been repeatedly referenced in local and national media as an exemplar of local leadership, as independent from ‘external influence’, and for actively engaging the local community. However, it has also been critiqued for ignoring international standards and norms, and for effectively writing over the material built past in the city through reconstruction.
Through the case of Bhaktapur, I will demonstrate the precise sites of political conflict, negotiation, and confluence, within planning and funding mechanisms, ranging from community groups and local agencies to international bodies, that have shaped the reconstruction trajectory of built heritage
heritage; disasters; reconstruction; politics; Gorkha Earthquake
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