The Quest of Urban Materiality in an Urban Neighborhood: A Case of Butwal, Nepal
Twenty first century urbanism has been evolving in Nepal in new dimensions. Material possession and consumption has been one of the most highlighting features associated with urbanism in Nepal in the recent times. People tend to relate urban identity or urbanity to the possession of various materials. Urban dwellers’ attachment to various kinds of materials is evident in the choice or selection of the items needed in the day-to-day life in a household, housing design, pattern and style, interior design, clothing style and others. Moreover, the level of success as well as the prosperity of a family in an urban neighborhood is often judged on the basis of the material possession and consumption by that family.
Butwal, one of the largest cities in the western Terai of Nepal, has a very high population growth rate due to the high influx of migrants from the surrounding areas. As a result, the city has been transforming itself into a mosaic of people from diverse ethnic, social, cultural and economic backgrounds and the urban community of Butwal has continuously been evolving over time. For residential purposes, Devinagar, Shankarnagar and Drivertole areas have been amongst the most popular destinations for the in-migrants in Butwal in the recent years. Through the analysis of the firsthand qualitative data generated by employing ethnographic fieldwork in Devinagar, Shankarnagar and Drivertole areas of Butwal, this paper attempts analyze and explain how the urban materiality has been engrained into the social and cultural lives of the dwellers of these areas. In this process, it attempts to assess the ways in which new dwellers make mental mappings about the materials associated with urban life and strive themselves in order to incorporate them into their daily lives. Likewise, it also attempts to explain how urban dwellers have been utilizing such materials associated with urbanity as a signifier of distinction and identity in the neighborhood. In these ways, it assesses how urban materiality reproduces the status or the class of a family in the neighborhood and thereby segregates it from others.