Monumentality, Identity, and the State: Local Practice, World Heritage, and Heterotopia at Swayambhu, Nepal
- Anthropological Quarterly
- George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research
- Volume 75, Number 2, Spring 2002
- pp. 269-316
- Additional Information
Over the past decade, democratization, economic liberalization, and a new politics of ethnicity have contributed to the emergence of new modes of devotional activities that have been shaping sacred sites in the Kathmandu Valley for millennia. Locally initiated devotional transformations of these sites now threaten the "monumental" integrity of places that UNESCO has designated "monumental zones," and new debates about fundamentally ancient processes and places are occurring in new venues and causing frictions between new kinds of constituencies. This paper examines the nexus of forces and intersections of interests that are currently transforming the important Buddhist (and World Heritage) site of Swayambhu in the Kathmandu Valley. It outlines the ways in which this heterotopia of long-standing has become a newly heterotopic arena of transnational, local, ethnic, and religious contestation. It also argues that the transformations at Swayambhu and the controversies they have produced are products of processes in which many religious monuments around the world are presently enmeshed, and that careful attention to the "multilocality" of such sites and the multivocality of those who have a stake in them is essential for understanding what such places are becoming.