Ruptured space and spatial estrangement: (Un)making of public space in Kathmandu

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Public space is increasingly recognized to be central to spatial discourse of cities. A city’s urbanism is set in display in public spaces representing myriad of complex socio-cultural, economic, and democratic practices of everyday life. In cities of the global south, especially those with nascent democracies, different values attached to a space by various actors – both material and symbolic – frame the contestation, making the physical space a normative instrument for contestation. Tundikhel, once believed to be the largest open space in Asia, is an important part of Kathmandu’s urbanism, which has witnessed two civil wars popularly known as Jana Andolans, and the subsequent political upheavals, to emerge as the symbolic meeting point of the city, democracy, and its people. The paper argues that the confluence of the three modalities of power – institutionalization, militarization, and informalization – has underpinned its historical transformation resulting in what I call ‘urban rupturing’: a process of (un) making of public space, through physical and symbolic fragmentation and spatial estrangement. The paper contends that unlike the common notion that public spaces such as Tundikhel are quintessentially public, hypocrisy is inherent to the ‘publicness’ agenda of the state and the institutional machinery in Kathmandu. It is an urban condition that not only maligns the public space agenda but also creeps into other spheres of urban development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2780–2800
Number of pages21
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number12
Early online date17 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2018


  • Public space, access, contestation, institutionalization, informalization, militarization, Kathmandu


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