Something Big and Glorious and Magnificently Insane’: Hippie Kathmandu
09 January, 2013
‘Something Big and Glorious and Magnificently Insane’: Hippie Kathmandu
From roughly the late 1960s to the late 1970s, Kathmandu was one of the major destinations on an international circuit of young, mainly Western, counter-cultural travellers intent on escaping and critiquing what they felt were encroachments on their freedoms back home. During this period, hundreds of thousands of disaffected youth travelled the overland Road to Kathmandu where for weeks, months, and years they formed a revolving ‘scene’ where people could indulge their artistic, spiritual, and alternative life-style impulses away from eyes of western states that had condemned many of these practices, most notably those involving mind-altering substances or ‘drugs’. An excerpt from a much larger history of tourism in Nepal, this talk focuses on Kathmandu’s hippie scene. Drawing on dozens of interviews and memoirs, it will consider the kinds of people attracted to the Kathmandu scene, why they came, and what they did in Nepal.
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Mark Liechty has been a student of Nepali society, culture, and history for close to three decades. His two books—Suitably Modern (2003) and Out Here in Kathmandu (2010)—explore a variety of themes related to consumer culture, mass media, youth culture, and middle-class formation in Kathmandu. He is currently completing a new book on the cultural history of tourism in Nepal from 1950 to 1980. Liechty is also the co-editor of a recent volume on The Global Middle Classes (2012) and one of the founding co-editors of the journal Studies in Nepali History and Society. Liechty teaches in the anthropology and history departments at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the USA.
(This lecture was organised in collaboration with Martin Chautari.)