Stability in motion: Expatriate women in Kathmandu, Nepal

Hindman, Heather

     This dissertation discusses the lives of Western women living in Kathmandu while their husbands pursue a career in diplomacy or development. In grounding this story within a history of South Asian engagement with the West and current neoliberal business practices, I craft the background of a mobile community, implotted within various national stories but creating their own narratives as well. Beginning in Nepal, I discuss the King's 1950 flight from the country and return a year later to proclaim a democratic monarchy in Nepal. This transformation is often seen as the opening of the country to the world and the beginning of Nepal's modern era, yet it was also the beginning of Nepal as a development state and created the ground for engagement with the United States. The structure of this interaction is largely shaped by transformations that took place in the Truman administration's construction of post-World War II foreign policy and in particular the Point Four program.
     Drawing from ethnographic work with expatriate women who follow their husbands to Nepal, I discuss how women perform the framework given them as a part of their deployment abroad. In considering home as both a location and an idea, I discuss the way that women include and exclude culture from the domestic space. Through pursuit of everyday goods as well as culturally marked items, expatriate women negotiate how their families will relate to Nepal and to their home nation. Through identification with portable interests, women are able to consider their lives as stable and create continuity for their families, thus making the constant movement that is a part of expatriate life more familiar than geographical constancy.
     In bringing together these seemingly disparate arenas, I suggest new understandings of the particularities of expatriate life and more general concerns over the practice of scholarship. Expatriate families are in many ways invisible to scholarship, both because of their location in relation to a rhetoric of otherness as well as their unusual relationship with space. In drawing from historical and ethnographic approaches, I suggest that reading the relationship of expatriate women to space and culture reveals much about the limited domain permitted for difference.

Kelly, John D.