Photo by Roberta Mandoki, 2014
Ageing in Urban Nepal - Perspectives of Senior Citizens on Migration, Urbanization and Social Change
(Roberta Mandoki, M.A.)This subproject explores the changing perspectives on ageing in the middle-class in Kathmandu, emphasizing the rapid urban changes as well as shifting family structures as intergenerational relations are strongly influenced by the increasing migration within Nepal and abroad. Since a national social security scheme for senior citizens was introduced in the mid-1990s age-related issues have entered the political agenda and have also become more visible in public discourse.
How do middle-class senior citizens perceive ageing in a developing, post-civil war country where poverty is a ubiquitous issue and politics continue to be unsteady? And in which ways are they influenced by the presence of international development organizations in Kathmandu and their long-term commitment in Nepal?
The research looks into how traditional notions of family and ageing as well as religious concepts on the life course meet with social change and ongoing migration. In Nepal, families have traditionally been living in a joint family system, and intergenerational relations have been shaped by patrilinearity and filial piety. Since many young Nepalese seek for better work or study prospects abroad, transnational family structures are on the rise, and alternative institutions for long-distance care such as old-age homes or day-care centres may increasingly be needed. Using ethnographic methods, the changes in the everyday life of the senior citizens and the increasing role of alternative social networks will be investigated.
The subproject also focuses on the specific situation of older persons in the urban environment of the Kathmandu Valley, and the influences of urbanization on their perspectives on ageing. Like many other urban areas in Asia, the Kathmandu Valley has changed dramatically during the last decades. The mainly unplanned growth and establishment of numerous new settlements has led to poor infrastructure and severe pollution. In the traditional Newari architecture of the Kathmandu Valley, public spaces such as open squares, temples and meeting places were an important part of town planning. These public spaces in the ancient Newari city centres are still widely used by the local population, but there is no equivalent common space to strengthen social ties in the later-built settlements. Using the example of a recently established Senior Citizens Day-Care Centre, the creation of new social institutions and the role of social commitment in the life of middle-class senior citizens will be explored.
This ethnographic case study will thus give insights on transcultural flows of age concepts and imaginaries exchanged between the Nepali society, international development agencies and the Nepali diaspora. Through its focus on migration and urbanization effects, it will contribute to a more diverse picture on ageing in Nepal.
More Information on Project B 19
Theinterdisciplinary research project "Aging in a Transcultural Context" (B19) focuses on aging in a transcultural urban context. It is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Christiane Brosius (Visual and Media Anthropology, Karl Jaspers Centre), Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels (Indology, South Asia Institute) and Prof. Dr. Andreas Kruse (Gerontology, Institute of Gerontology). Further information can be found at the website of the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context": http://www.asia-europe.uni-heidelberg.de/en/research/b-public-spheres/b19-perspectives-on-ageing.html .