One late evening in the spring of 2017, in the fragility of time, bits and pixels became disfigured. When my hard drive crashed, the ontological being of images were reconfigured. Around the same time, I was trying to make sense of the changes in Boudha - placing my understanding of Boudha as a sort of geopolitical microcosmic sphere of Nepal-China politics. This politics later came to realization in multiples as “politics of” - politics of rumor, politics of eavesdropping, politics of development, politics of placemaking vis-à-vis (de/re)territorialization.
The central question that these photographical errors pose is of ontological presence/absence and the epistemic violence of change in a particular social world and mode of being. Epistemic violence speaks to both how violence is inherently produced through knowledge and how violence seeks avenues for new modes of knowledge production [see Spivak more relevance]. Boudha is arguably the first public space in the entirety of Nepal to have surveillance instruments in place. The mobility of people in this space is circular - a clockwise circumambulation around the sacred stupa. In Tibetan, སྐོར་བ་ skora ba (kora) manifests this form of movement. The surveillance of Boudha is then also materially realized in the form of kora.
Circumambulation, 1. n. སྐོར་བ་ skor ba. 2. Circumambulate, va. - བརྒྱབ་ brgyab. Sonam circumambulated the monastery. བསོད་ནམས་ཀྱིས་དགོན་པར་སྐོར་བ་བརྒྱབ་བ་རེད། bsod nam kyis dgon par skor ba brgyab ba red/
(English-Tibetan Dictionary of Modern Tibetan, 49)
From the vantage point of securitization, this make sense. Surveillance cameras placed at angles so that the assemblage of it all produces a security apparatus that knows all and is placed to surveill what is legible in the space and what is rendered as illegible. Although, this illegibility is not illegal, the Nepali state treats any Tibetan illegibility here as extra-illegal through extraterritorial policing praxis - or simply put, the long reaching hands - of Chinese state interests and Nepali policing practices.
The rendering of particular peoples as illegible by the state comes to fruition in place. Since 2008 - when Tibetan anti-China protests intensified in China and elsewhere - Chinese development and institutional support to Nepal are accompanied with phrases that place territorial integrity to high regard. Any Tibetan political activity in Nepal is coded as anti-China. For Nepal to receive aid, it does not want this code enacted in its territory in any regard. Tibetan pronouncements of politics in Nepali public sphere then become illegible.
Nepali state borrows from its Chinese big brother (terminology that is increasingly used to anthropomorphize Nepal-China politics) in its practice of imaging (surveillance), coding (legible-illegible), and erasing (incarceration, coercion, extradition) of bodies. The state apparatus sees particular events and activities as illegible and illegal. The sovereignty of the state lies in its (cap)ability to erase. It is always in the lookout to erase what it renders as illegible - त्यस्मा यो लागि पर्छ ।