3rd Place

Cosmopolitan Space in Kathmandu

Submitted by: Benjamin Linder

Program: Anthropology

Thamel (in Kathmandu, Nepal) is a strikingly global neighborhood of eclectic cuisines, live music, curio shops, and guesthouses. My research examines Thamel to better understand the relationship between globalization, urban space, and cultural transformation. Although Thamel initially catered primarily to foreign tourists, Nepalis themselves have become a dominant force in the neighborhood over the last two decades. For young Nepalis—who grew up in a media-liberated environment offering foreign influences unavailable to older generations—Thamel represents a space of transgression and possibility. Because of its “foreign” reputation, it is an enclave where Nepali youth can experiment with alternative practices of consumption and sexuality. The neighborhood’s cosmopolitanism engenders new practices and is, in turn, (re)produced through such practices. Thamel has been the site where countless transnational linkages spatialize in Kathmandu. This photo attempts to capture the dynamic energy of Thamel on a Friday night, when young Nepalis come to transgress cultural (and physical) boundaries. The three Nepali teenagers in the photo’s center are at an intersection that challenges binaries like local/global, East/West, and traditional/modern. Put simply, as global flows circulate around them, they exemplify a generation rethinking—often through spatial practices in Thamel—what it means to be Nepali.