Academic Publications

Political Economies and Political Rationalities of Road Building in Nepal

Selection: “Drawing on some key conceptual contributions from the international scholarly literature, this paper aims to render visible the sociopolitical infrastructures underlying road building in Nepal. It takes as its starting point the construction of the first motorable roads during the Rana regime (1846–1951), to trace how road building articulates state building, geopolitical dynamics, and place-based social relations. As a theoretical starting point, we find it particularly productive to engage geographer Fiona Wilson’s (2004) concept of “regimes of territorialization” developed through research on mountain roads in Peru, to regard roads as “stretched out spaces of social”

Please cite as: Rankin, Katharine., Tulasi S. Sigdel, Lagan Rai, Shyam Kunwar and Pushpa Hamal. (2017). Political Economies and Political Rationalities of Road Building in Nepal
Pages. Studies in Nepali History and Society, 22(1), 43-84.

Access the article here

“Roads of Change: Political transition and state formation in Nepal’s agrarian districts

Abstract: This paper explores the political field that has opened up in the wake of the recent civil war in Nepal. We focus on cultural-political developments in agrarian districts, where some of the most intriguing openings, and indeed the most pernicious closures, can be witnessed (as opposed to the national-state restructuring that commands more media and popular attention). Our research asks what spaces open up in the emerging political field at the district scale to entrench or transform dominant cultural codes and sedimented histories of socio-economic inequality. Preliminary research identifies specific sectors of local governance that have emerged as significant sites of struggle over the shape and meaning of ‘democracy’, namely forest management and infrastructure development. The primary contribution of the paper lies in specifying an analytical approach to the study of ‘post-conflict’ governance at the local scale via three conceptual terrains of inquiry – governance and planning, political subjectivity, and cultural politics. The ultimate objective is to develop a framework for assessing the conditions of possibility for a democratic restructuring of economy and society to accompany the official political institutions of liberal democracy.

Please cite as: Rankin, Katharine., Nightingale, Andrea., Hamal, Pushpa., & Sigdel, Tulasi. (2016) Roads of Change: Political transition and state formation in Nepal’s agrarian districts,” Journal of Peasant Studies, 1-20.

Access the article online here

Media Publications

“बिकासमा बददैछा दुरुपयोग” (Increasing Misuse in Development) by Samjhana Nepali 
Rara Sandesh Wednesday 25 July, 2018

This article, published in Rara Sandesh, a local newspaper in Mugu, Nepal, speaks to how roads and politics have intersected in Mugu district in the past year. Roads served as a tool for political elites and leaders to raise hopes and dreams for development in Mugu in order to win seats in the recent elections. However, after being elected the leaders are failing to fulfill their promises and instead are misusing the resources allocated for the road development.

Find a full version of the article here: बिकासमा बददैछा दुरुपयोग

“The Road in Karnali: Political-Economic Relations and Development” by Tulasi Sharan Sigdel 

कर्णालीमा सडक, अर्थ-राजनीतिक सम्बन्ध र विकास (The Road in Karnali: Political-Economic Relations and Development) This article, published at, analyzes how historical structural inequalities are entrenched in Nepal’s democratic political regime. It argues that some political leaders, construction companies and monitoring agencies are developing mutually beneficial, informal relationships for personal and political gain and that formal democratic processes have been heavily criticized by local people. It also claims that the cause of underdevelopment of the Karnali is not only its rugged terrain (as is commonly argued) but more importantly its low representation in central government and weak bargaining power resulting from political and personal divisions among political representatives. In this context, the development of the Karnali depends on how it exploits the opportunities opened up by road connectivity and the new federal state structure.

Find a full version of the article here: The Road in Karnali

“Does a Road Network Develop the Karnali by Default?” by Tulasi Sharan Sigdel 

‘सडक पुग्दैमा कर्णालीको विकास हुन्छ?’ (Does a Road Network Develop the Karnali by Default?) is an op-ed piece published on an online media ‘’. This piece briefly introduces the research objective of ‘infrastructure of democracy project’. It analyzes the changing political-economic relations and development dynamics of Karnali’ and the class inequality that may entrench in Karnali. It takes empirical data from field visit Jumla and Mugu during June, 2016. This article argues that development of Karnali depends on how the state and local people exploit the development opportunities opened up due to road network. This also alerts readers to the possibility of neoliberal capitalists taking advantage of easy access and connectivity of road network in Karnali.

Find the PDF version of the full article here: Development by Default?