When is housing an environmental problem? Reforming informality in Kathmandu

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Drawing on fieldwork among environmental activists and housing advocates in one of South Asia's fastest-growing cities-and the capital of one of the world's most politically volatile nation-states- this article explores how and when specific forms of urban housing were problematized and reformed through environmental logics. I ask when and how housing was framed as an environmental problem in Kathmandu. In so doing, I demonstrate that a fuller understanding of housing as an environmental problem rests not only in evaluations of public health parameters, risks of toxic exposure, and disaster vulnerability but also in the shifting ideologies of belonging, morality, and governance that animate urban environmental anxieties in specific cities. I illustrate how categories fundamental to the intersection of ecology and housing were produced, effaced, and reproduced over time in Nepal's capital. I argue that the making and unmaking of these categories had clear material consequences that are often difficult to discern through global-scale "slum ecology" logics. I suggest further that the moral and ideological dimensions of urban ecology are never predetermined or fixed and as such complicate global conceptions of housing as an environmental problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-533
Number of pages21
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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