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Voicing Subjects

Public Intimacy and Mediation in Kathmandu

Laura Kunreuther

Publication Year: 2014

Nepal's recent history is extraordinary: within a short span of time, the country endured a relatively peaceful 1990 revolution that reestablished democracy, a Maoist civil war, and the massacre of its royal family. As these dramatic changes were taking place, Nepalese society experienced an upsurge in both political and intimate discourse, and the two became intertwined as they developed. Voicing Subjects is an ethnography that explores that phenomenon, tracing the relationship between public speech and notions of personal interiority in Kathmandu by examining the two formations of voice that emerged: a political voice, associated with civic empowerment and collective agency, and an intimate voice, associated with emotional proximity and authentic feeling. Using personal interviews and examples in the media--in particular, radio--Kunreuther's careful study reveals the figure of voice as a critical tool for gaining an in-depth understanding of emerging subjectivity, structural change, and cultural mediation.

Published by: University of California Press

Editorial Page

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Despite the solitude, writing a book is truly a collective enterprise. Without the intellectual and emotional support of family, close friends, colleagues, students, research assistants, editors, and anonymous reviewers, most books—and I know this book—would not have come to fruition...

Author’s Note on Transliteration and Pseudonyms

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pp. xv-xvi

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Introduction: Public Intimacy and Voicing Subjects in Kathmandu

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pp. 1-41

In the late monsoon month of September 1989, during my first visit to Nepal, I was given a tour of Kathmandu by my Nepali friend Raj Gopal on the back of his motorcycle. During our first meeting earlier that morning, inside his office, he told me that Nepal was in a critical state. People were...

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1. Intimate Callings and Voices of Reform: Law, Property, and Familial Love

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pp. 42-86

On a spring afternoon in 1998, I witnessed a small event in Nepal that was a common sight at the time. Several young women, dressed in saris and sandals, were standing at the central Palace Square of Patan (a city adjacent to Kathmandu). Behind them lay a white sheet draped across the palace...

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2. Seeing Face and Hearing Voice: Tactile Vision and Signs of Presence

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pp. 87-123

In the course of fieldwork, small, passing comments will occasionally strike the ethnographer as unusual, unexpected, or not entirely comprehensible. More oft en than not, such offhand remarks—words that, while striking or odd, seem to lie outside one’s field of study—are noted, and if they...

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3. Making Waves: The Social and Political Context of FM Radio

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pp. 124-160

The jana āndolan (People’s Movement) of 1990 can be aptly called a revolution of the voice. As it unfolded, personal subjectivities and landscapes of political discourse were remade. This reorientation of the political and intimate voice in Nepali public life has been closely associated with the...

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4. Mero Kathā, Mero Gīt: Affective Publics, Public Intimacy, and Voiced Writing

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pp. 161-214

Beginning in the spring of 1997, every Thursday at noon, college students, factory workers, taxi drivers, bronze casters, and housewives in the Kathmandu Valley would turn on their FM radio and listen to Kalyan Gautum’s soothing voice. Among the most popular programs on FM radio...

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5. Diasporic Voices: Sounds of the Diaspora in Kathmandu

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pp. 215-241

Technologies of the voice alleviate and aggravate Nepali dreams of contact across great distances. Fantasies of escaping the Maoist civil war and of earning enough money to support a middle-class life in Nepal are constantly belied by stories about the difficult and sometimes outright...

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Epilogue: Royal Victims, Voicing Subjects

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pp. 242-254

Roughly a decade after the first jana āndolan (People’s Movement), King Bir Birendra Bikram Shah Dev, Queen Aishwarya, and their entire immediate family were murdered. The massacre occurred on the evening of Friday June 1, 2001, during a family dinner party at the royal palace in the...


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pp. 255-272


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pp. 273-290


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pp. 291-303

Series Page

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E-ISBN-13: 9780520958067
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520270701

Page Count: 306
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mass media -- Nepal -- Kathmandu.
  • Communication -- Political aspects -- Nepal -- Kathmandu.
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