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Nepal, a Shangri-La? Narratives of Culture, Contact, and Memory

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Item Code: UAV853
Author: Deepak Shimkhada & Iswari Pandey & Tika Lamsal & Santosh Khadka
Publisher: Mandala Book Point, Nepal
Language: English
Edition: 2022
ISBN: 9789993342588
Pages: 486
Other Details 8.50 X 5.50 inch
Weight 550 gm
Book Description
About The Book

Nepal, a Shangri-La? Narratives of Culture, Contact, and Memory is a collection of salient personal narratives representing diverse aspects of Nepal and Nepali life of the last 70 years. Combining description and reflection, contributors-both Nepalis who have lived abroad and non Nepalis with significant experience in Nepal-relate their most remarkable observations and memories of various facets of Nepali life for this unique volume. Divided into eight sections, these pieces deal with such diverse themes as art, culture, faith, superstition, language, gender, politics, disease and displacement, rural-urban divide, local-global interconnectedness, and issues of identities along lines of geography, gender, and caste or ethnicity. Noted writer, Abhi Subedi's foreword contextualizes the evocative construct of Shangri-La, and the editors' introduction shows how the narratives both embed and challenge the concept in the shaping of a national imaginary.

About the Author

DEEPAK SHIMKHADA (PH.D.) is Professor of Asian Art History and Religion. He is the author of numerous book chapters, journal articles, and edited volumes. Some of his edited books include Himalayas at the Crossroads; Nepal: Nostalgia and Modernity; The Constant and Changing Faces of the Goddess: Goddess Traditions in Asia, South Asian Studies: Bridging Cultures.

ISWARI PANDEY (PH.D.) is Associate Professor of English at California State University, Northridge, California, USA. He is the author of, among others, the award-winning monograph, South Asian in the Mid-South: Migrations of Literacies:

TIKA LAMSAL (PH.D.) is Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Language at the University of San Francisco, California, USA. He has published several jounrnal articles, book chapters, and co-authored a book, Business Communication: Theory and Practice (2021).

SANTOSH KHADKA (PH.D.) is Associate Professor of English at California State University, Northridge, California, USA. He has authored a monograph and co-edited five books, including Brudging the Multimodal Gap: From Theary to Practice (2019), and Professionalizing Multimodal Composition (2022)


Reading a collection of different people's personal narratives is the most evocative, inspiring, and challenging experience. Such a collection is a country in print, a story of borderless borders, and a chautari (platform under the shade of a banyan tree) where every traveler sits for a respite. And this collection offers us a platform to express common experiences of being, in and about Nepal in this case, which becomes an opportunity of entering a conversation with what I would call the familiar strangers. I find this Nepali rural imagery very helpful to write about the common bonds of people who use the collection as a shared chautari. When Tika Lamsal sent me the collection of the narratives put together under the rubric Nepal, a Shangri La? Narratives of Culture, Contact, and Memory, inviting me to write a brief foreword, I knew where my place would be. My task would be to sit down at a distance and listen to what people had to say about their travels and write a brief impression of those journeys. I may feel tempted to jump on the bandwagon and tell my own story, but for space constraints, I will only use a paragraph to that end later.

I am drawn by the term "Shangri-La," which is foregrounded in the title of the collection and used in a few pieces. But the title "Shangri-La" is put under erasure, to use the familiar term from Jacques Derrida. It is put under erasure not with a cross but with a question mark. I find that figuration very meaningful. Shangri-La, under erasure, becomes an important feature of the collection because the imagery comes in very important modes of discussion from the title down to a number of narratives. Like an expression under erasure, it is visible, palpable but not fully supported. I want to briefly allude to such a postscript image of Shangri-La.

Compiled under the title Nepal, a Shangri-La? Narratives of Culture, Contact, and Memory, the range of narratives here is quite broad. These narratives rightly cover diverse subjects that include stories about the contact zones, cultural encounters, and, most importantly, memories of people. Nepal is naturally the main locus in all these narratives. The carefully selected pieces give a picture of people and their journeys through time and space. These people include both Nepalis or "natives" as well as the "foreigners" or non-natives, who have important memories of their work in Nepal and interesting experiences to share. Nepal is at the center of both kinds of narratives.


What is the relationship between the narratives of a nation and personal experiences of growing up, living, working, or visiting that space for a considerable period of time? What happens when those personal experiences are reconstructed from some distance - both in terms of time and space - in relation to the master narratives of the nation-state? Equally importantly, how do those narratives converge, intersect, and/ or conflict, and what do those narratives teach us about the status of a nation-state and its memory at a time of profound change when the world is torn between the forces of globalization and resurgent nationalisms?

These questions are as critical, we believe, as their answers are difficult.

Ever since we decided to put together a volume focusing on the micro-narratives about Nepal, we have wondered about the power of memory and its role in crafting narratives as, along with over four dozen contributors, we try to make sense of our identity and belonging in an interconnected world. We have also wondered about ideas that bring Nepalis and non-Nepalis together: how does the space- that Himalayan country-in both geo-political and cultural terms bind us together? Our starting point was to pose a series of questions to our contributors as we invited them to describe and think about the most salient experiences or memories that represented the country for them. We were interested in how those personal narratives related to the master narratives of the nation, i.e. how they echoed, contested, or resonated with the constructs promoted by the powers that be.

Going by the master narratives of Nepal, we see a careful selection of historically verifiable facts and some imagined ideals. For example, the country is the oldest nation-state in South Asia, as the Himalayan nation was never directly colonized. It is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, and the land of the Himalayas actually, the only country with eight of the ten highest mountains in the world. Nepal is also a country with a remarkable diversity of flora and fauna, peoples, traditions, and stupas or temples at virtually every step of the way. It is the home of the Gurkha soldiers whose stories of bravery are told and retold around the world. Untouched by outside influences until recently, it is the Shangri-La that we know of that could potentially function as an antidote to human despair borne off industrialization.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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