The Sky's the Limit? Aviation and the State in Nepal
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores how approaches from anthropology and geography can help us understand geopolitics in the skies, with specific ethnographic examples from Nepal.
Paper long abstract:
How can we draw upon approaches in anthropology and geography to help us understand how space and time are transformed in order to enable more aircraft to fit in the sky? This paper takes increasingly crowded airspaces as its 'field,' and is based on ethnographic work in Nepal. It aims to demonstrate how economic and political controversies over (air)space and the placement of new airports and flight routes are used in multiple ways in order to situate Nepal's complex position between the two larger states of China and India. How is severe congestion at Nepal's only international airport managed and controlled in order to facilitate (or prevent) the mobility of labour migrants and tourists? In what ways do serious environmental concerns play a role in the decision-making process of where to place new airports and new flight routes? Taking a volumetric approach, this paper will show how mobility through the air is both dependent upon and driven by geopolitics 'on the ground' (Williams 2013: 226).
Geographies and anthropologies of the state: places, persons and nonhumans