Currently, he is working on a book manuscript, Transforming Thamel, which examines the historical development and contemporary (inter)cultural dynamics of Thamel, a densely “global” neighborhood in Kathmandu. The project revises and expands Benjamin’s doctoral dissertation, which theorized the mutual productions of place-making, multi-scalar mobilties, and emergent (sub)cultural practices. Thamel has rapidly transformed over the past 30 years into a dizzying enclave of dance clubs, international restaurants, eclectic shopping, and live music. Despite its widespread reputation as a tourist hub, Nepali consumers far outnumber foreigners in the neighborhood, and their Thamel-based lifeworlds have little to do with tourists. Since 1990, sharp increases in media consumption, economic opportunity, and transnational mobility have dramatically reshaped Kathmandu. Thamel became a prime locus of such transformations, emplacing a wide array of demographic, generational, and sociopolitical trends. The struggles over the space’s meaning engage a broader cultural politics over the acceptable parameters of Nepalipan (“Nepaliness”). Today, the neighborhood is a potent and contested symbol: either a harbinger of Nepali cosmopolitanism or an albatross of cultural decline. Far from being merely a “tourist place,” Thamel is a spatial node that reflects, absorbs, and (re)produces a suite of social transformations in contemporary Kathmandu. As the first book-length ethnography of Thamel, this project attends to diversely situated Nepalis within Nepal, but also includes a multi-sited exploration of Thamel’s constitutive links to diasporic spaces abroad.
Benjamin Linder holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Illinois at Chicago (2019), as well as MA degrees in Anthropology (2013) and Environmental & Urban Geography (2018). In addition to his ethnographic work on Thamel, his theoretical interests include mobilities, cosmopolitanism, space/place, transnationalism, and geocriticism. He is currently developing a new research agenda exploring airport development in Nepal.