The fields of development and disaster have largely existed as two distinct bodies of knowledge, with post-disaster reconstruction considered as a process separate from development. However, this article argues for the reconceptualization of post-disaster reconstruction as a form of development that operates embedded within and largely shaped by the historical, cultural, social, and political context of an existing development paradigm in a particular place. Drawing on qualitative research conducted in two severely-affected districts in post-earthquake Nepal, this article examines the local-level unintended consequences of reconstruction through a critical development lens. The author theorizes the influx of hundreds of NGOs and INGOs during reconstruction following Nepal’s 2015 earthquakes as an unprecedented ‘post-disaster development surge’ that—under normal social conditions—would not be possible. The article addresses two research questions: What are the unintended local effects of Nepal’s post-earthquake development surge?; and, how are these local impacts shaped by Nepal’s broader development (bikas) context? Evidence from the research suggests that Nepal’s post-disaster development surge produced two paradoxical effects at the local level: 1.) it accentuated subjectivities, practices, and scales of power previously defined by development in Nepal; and 2.) it catalysed shifting expectations and furthered the questioning of prevailing development doxa. These findings emphasize how local context in post-disaster settings influence development outcomes in unforeseen ways, which has important implications for future reconstruction efforts.

Keywords: Nepal; earthquake; disaster; development; NGO; INGO; reconstruction


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