Transformation of urban spaces in post conflict Kathmandu: case of Tudikhel


This project is sponsored by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust and aims to examine changing faces of urban spaces in the city. Urban open space(s) in Kathmandu have been an important part of the city’s urbanism. In recent years, they have been subject to change, which put the architecture, use and identity of an important urban component in question. The project has a particular focus on Tudikhel, the only open space in central Kathmandu. The research aims to capture the dynamics of urban space transformation through social, political and neoliberal interactions.

Project Introduction

Urban spaces in Kathmandu have been crucial element of city’s urbanism. Historically they have played an important role in city-building processes through their roles as spaces for religious and cultural activities. Throughout the civil war period (Maoist insurgency between 1996 and 2006) they became material locations for political activities, and sites for protests and dharnas. In postconflict Kathmandu, especially since the abolition of Monarchy in May 28, 2008, these spaces are occupied by street hawkers, informal sellers and individuals articulated by the broader forces of neoliberalism. Simultaneously, these spaces are now used for diverse activities, and people of different ethnic backgrounds who were predominantly displaced by the conflict, violence  and the civil war.

Spaces are simultaneously real, imagined and symbolic, and invariably transformed. In locating the symbolic dimension of urban spaces in the new context, I draw from Edward Soja’s (1996) concept of ‘third space’ and Lefebvre’s ‘trialectics of spatiality’ and apply their conceptualisation on Tudikhel – the central urban space in Kathmandu – to understand how historical symbolism has been, through the lived practices of protesters, traders and the wider population, reimagined and relived as a site for protest, informal trade and a social space. The aim of the research is to examine the nature of this space being created and its implications on embodied experiences of urban change by exploring the cultural, political and social processes in which the spatial organisation is mediated.

The main objectives of the research are:

  1. to generate new knowledge on how urban space is expressed, constructed, and negotiated in culturally diverse settings, and to assess the relative roles of political and cultural expressions; and
  2. to integrate different theoretical perspectives on the roles of urban space in post-conflict society
  3. Investigate manifestations of these transformations on embodied experiences of urban change.

Project Sponsors