Jason Hopper

Who’s Being Political? Reflections on a Demonstration in Bhutan

In 2009 six children died in a flash flood just south of Bhutan’s capital of Thimphu. Widely viewed as a preventable tragedy, citizens in Bhutan’s capital organized a demonstration, labeled a “solidarity walk”, to express their outrage and frustration. Despite the seemingly obvious political tone of the march, the organizers of the event vehemently denied being “political”. After the march a debate ensued over the very question of the “political”
nature of the event, its relationship to the personal tragedy that inspired it, and the place of political expression in Bhutanese society. This talk will look at how the solidarity walk and the conversations that ensued afterwards can provide insight into some of the important issues surrounding contemporary political change in Bhutan. This talk grows out of pre-dissertation fieldwork conducted in Bhutan during the summer of 2009 and funded with a Scott
Kloeck-Jenson Fellowship.