House, Household, and Home Revisiting Anthropological and Policy Frameworks through Postearthquake Reconstruction Experiences in Nepal

Sara Shneiderman*, Bina Khapunghang Limbu, Jeevan Baniya, Manoj Suji, Nabin Rawal, Prakash Chandra Subedi, Cameron David Warner

*Corresponding author for this work

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Through ethnographic fieldwork and analysis of policy documents about private housing reconstruction in the wake of Nepal’s devastating 2015 earthquakes, we show how the contemporary “house,” “household,” and “home” are key sites of regulation for the state, as well as for the development and humanitarian organizations that work within it. Our discussion lays bare a more general set of questions about the relationships between these categories that remain unresolved in the anthropological literature, as well as in domains of policy practice that build on it. The experience of postearthquake reconstruction in Nepal has highlighted conceptual limitations in the existing legal definitions of ownership and residence and challenged people’s sense of belonging at the affective level. This is in part due to conditions of high mobility that affect patterns of kinship and sociality and demand an understanding of infrastructure as process. We propose a tripartite analytical framework that recognizes the relational complexities between the concepts of “house,” “household,” and “home” and argue that careful attention to their definitions in both anthropological and policy contexts matters because those terminologies drive processes of change that may begin in moments of natural disaster but extend far beyond that temporal horizon to reconfigure lives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-527
Number of pages30
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number5
Early online date12 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

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