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Carnal Economies: The Commodification of Food and Sex in Kathmandu

Universityof Illinois at Chicago

Mark Liechty

In the summer of 2001, people in Kathmanduwere in a state of alarm over the Maoistinsurgency,despondentover theirelected govcountry'sever-more-violent ernment'salmost total ineffectiveness, and traumatizedby the gruesome murder of Nepal's royal family. Yet as I wanderedKathmandustreets after several years' absence, what surprisedme-perhaps because of their seeming incongruitywith for a new kind of those bittertimes-were the ubiquitoussigns and advertisements with Dance" seemed Establishments restaurant. billing themselves as "Restaurant to be everywhere, from downtown commercial districts to suburbanresidential neighborhoods.My initial assumptionthat these must be a new variationon the old disco theme provedunfoundedas I visited severalvenues to discoverthatit was not the patronswho were doing the dancing. Whetherglitzy or seedy, what all of hadin commonwas minimallyattiredyoung women perrestaurants these "dance" dance moves to Hindi and Nepali pop songs as entertainment forming suggestive for patronswho were almost entirelylocal, male, and middle class (see Figure 1). Almost everyone assumed that the young women dancers were also prostitutes and the same assumptionappliedto otherwomen in attendance,especially if they were unaccompaniedby a man. In the evenings, these restaurantsseemed to be doing a good business serving groupsof men who eyed the girls as they ate snacks such as chicken chili and finger chips and dranklocal beer and whisky. Outside, the streetswere mostly abandonedbecause of fears generatedby a recent spate of Maoist bombings in the capital. This articleis not aboutNepal's currentpolitical scene,1 nor is it aboutthese new "dancerestaurants,"2 per se, but aboutlargerculturaltrendsin the commodificationof food and sex. The questionof why these new leisure venues were thriving in such a grim sociopoliticalcontextis probablywortha studyof its own. However, I am interestedin these new "Restaurants with Dance" more as a continuationof an earlier patternin Kathmandu,namely, the frequent link between restaurants and prostitution.Since I first began doing researchin the city in the late 1980s, I
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IN KATHMANDU3 CARNAL ECONOMIES

historicaland culturaldynamicsat workin the South Asian context. In a society in markedand regulatedculturalcategories which food and sex are extraordinarily determined rules (often through minutely regulatingwith whom one may share culturalexperience food and sexual relations),both the history and contemporary of sexual and culinaryexchange unfold as unique local manifestationsof broader patternsof commodificationand marketformation.This article traces the South Asian culturalthemes of commensalityand endogamy in their local Nepali variants through the processes of culturalrenegotiationthat have accompanied the shift in Kathmandu'smiddle-class culture from a moral economy of caste to a with Dance" are only moral economy of class. Kathmandu'snew "Restaurants the most recent developmentin the process whereby food and sex, commensality and endogamy,are broughtin line with a new logic of social value based in new social relations. patternsof market-oriented Caste and Class In Kathmandu,an emerging urban middle class creates itself as a cultural entity, contests its terms of membership,and constructsboundariesbetween itself and its class others (above and below) by engaging in culturalpractices that weave togetherculturalparadigmswith deep roots in Nepali society (such as casteoriented notions of prestige, orthodoxy, and propriety)and new market-driven, mass-mediatedvalues and desires.3 From this perspective, "class" is not a thing or a set of characteristics to be defined and measuredbut a matterof practiceand is not Class process. priorto or outside of discourseand performancebut an emercultural gent project wherein people attemptto speak and act themselves-and or coherence. Cultural theirnew socioeconomic existence-into cultural"reality" food and sexuality are among the most fascinatingelements practicessurrounding of this emerging middle-class culture because the meanings surroundingcommensality and endogamyundergoprofoundshifts as transactionsin food and sex are displaced from the realm of caste and kin relations into the public culture of the marketplaceand class relations. These new discourses and practices surroundingfood and sex are notable because they lay out with exceptional clarity the shifts in culturallogic that accompanythe emergence of a new middle-class society. The emergence of class-based forms of sociality by no means implies the the morallogic of caste continuesto powdemise of caste society. On the contrary, of the inflect not least in the areasof lives people in Kathmandu, erfully everyday I food and sexuality.Yet arguethatthe "epistemologicalstyles" (Appadurai1990) and morallogic of social life in Kathmandu have shifted,leaving the transactional of class as the framingprinciplefor everydayexperience, whereas the valence of caste is increasingly circumscribedwithin specific cultural settings. In charting this shift, I do not mean to imply some kind of inevitable victory of "modernity" over "tradition."4 Instead,I am interestedin the encounterbetween differentforms

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4 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

in food and sex are especially fasciof moraland transactional logic. Transactions natingbecause these exchanges are where competing "epistemologicalstyles" lay claim to the body itself. UrbanNepalis shift between class bodies and caste bodies as they move througha variedculturallandscapein which differentsociomorallogics produceor demanddifferentways of being. This articletraces some of the key in this culturallandscape as a new market-based,class-oriented transformations in food and sex into its moral orbit. draws transactions logic the commercial availabilityof eitherfood or sex is not entirelynew Although in Kathmandu,5 since the 1970s is the scale andnatureof this whatis unprecedented commodification.Along with Kathmandu's rapid integrationinto global circuits in the meaning, of money, images, goods, and desires have come transformations of Social as those and transactions nature, (such experience sociality. involving sexual andculinaryexchange), once largely confinedwithin an intimate,noncommercial domestic economy, have increasingly shifted into the marketeconomy. Markettransactionsin food and sexual experience come to be mediatednot only by money but also by the consumer aesthetics of fantasy and longing that haunt these newly commodified"goods"(Haug 1987). As commodifiedforms of culinaryand sexual relations,restaurants andprostitution share a set of common culturaldynamics surroundingthe meaning and relations between public eating and prostitunatureof exchange. Contemporary tion in Kathmandumust be seen in light of a class and gender politics of incorand prostitutionare male porationand transgression.In Kathmandu,restaurants consumer domains tied up in acts of incorporation,both in their having to do with very physical, bodily functionsand with crossing boundaries(transgression), whetherof individualor corporatebodies. As such, this article explores a shifting culturalgeographyin which the terrainof the physical body-with its vulnerable margins-mirrors the social body (of a caste or class group).As the logic of sociality shifts from a moral economy of caste to one of class, so do the experiences of vulnerabilityand the politics of bodily (and moral) transgressionchange through a calculus of power and punishment.The processes at work in the commodification of food and sex join together with contemporaryprojects of negotiating gender identities, caste membership,and new forms of class membership.Thereintersectionof public eating and prostitutionis more than fore, the contemporary shared about space: the public "servicing"of appetites for food and sex simply are bound up with changing patternsof social structure(caste and class), gender relations,domestic economies, and the culturalconstructionof public and private spheres. Food and Sex It is hardto imagine two more intimatelyinterrelated humanpreoccupations than food and sex. Elspeth Probyn suggests there is a "doubleness of food and sex" (2000:74): both are physical, sensual, and symbolic channels through and

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CARNAL ECONOMIESIN KATHMANDU 5

between which culturalmeanings "naturally" flow; both are simultaneouslydomains of pleasure and of the production and reproductionof the species; and both are interfacesbetween the materialand the imaginary,the corporealand the social, and nature and culture. Because food and sex relate to basic biological imperatives-eating is essential to the survivalof the individual,as sex is to the survivalof the species (Fieldhouse 1986:173)-the two domains serve as primary and overlappingsites for semiotic elaboration. The fact that humans have "a universaltendency to make ritual and verbal associations between eating and sexual intercourse"(Leach 1964:53) suggests thatfood and sex offer people everywherean especially compelling set of symbols and practicesthroughwhich to naturalizesocioculturalconstructssuch as gender, caste, and class. Experiences of food and sex are inescapably social: as Mary of a culture,consumption, Douglas andBaronIsherwoodobserve,"Inthe structure commensality,andcohabitationareforms of sharing;degrees of admissionto each are often depicted by analogy with one another"(1996:61). Culturalpractices of culinary and sexual consumptionand exchange, throughtheir continuous crossreferencing and analogizing, are often among the most importanttools in the productionof sociality. Although cultures of food and sex are importantmeans of naturalizingsocial hierarchiesbetween groups (caste, clan, class, etc.), they also play important roles in the productionof gender divisions within communities.For example, the linguistic associations between food and sex often carry a not-so-subtlemessage of male dominance.Expressionslike "meathouse" and "meatmarket"have long been metaphorsused to describe brothels(as in Frenchslang maison d'abattage, lit. "slaughterhouse" [Corbin1990:338]) and, more recently,beautypageantsand houses. sorority Speech practices that analogize exchanges of food and sex help to solidify genderhierarchies.Of meat and women, Nick Fiddes notes: "Theportrayalof women, by men, as meat is an instanceof the wider caricatureof women as animal.., .and [her] availabilityas a naturalresource for men.... Women are called meat as if assigned for men's consumption"(1991:160).6 The language of food and sex merge to mark women as the objects of male control, by justifying the availabilityon demandof her "services"(whetherculinaryor sexual) and naturalizingculturesof gender hierarchy.With exchanges of food and sex so inescapablytied to culturesof gender,it is not surprisingthatthe commercialization of culinaryand sexual services in Kathmandu parallelsimportantshifts in gender in food politics. This articleconsidershow genderrelationschange as transactions and sex move increasinglyfrom the private,domestic sphere to the public, commercialsphere.How does the "freetrade" in food and sex affectthe local politics of gender? Humanpreoccupations with food, sex, and sociality areoften culturallyinterlinked and this is undoubtedlytied to the fact that sexual and culinaryexchanges both involve passing or crossing frontiers,thresholds, or orifices of the individual as well as the social body. As Arnold van Gennep noted a century ago, such

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CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

crossings are almost always culturally mediated: the cultural complexities surroundingthe biological imperativesof food and sex are, in this sense, "rites of passage" (van Gennep 1960).7 Many of these rites (in the form of rules, prohibitions, etc.) areto protectthe body-whether individualor social-from the danger of defilementthatuncontrolledcrossings threatento produce(Douglas 1966:121, 139). To the extent that the body is a social microcosm, protecting the body's boundariesis protectingthe boundariesof the community.8 Thereis now a growingbody of general social science literatureon relations between food and human sexuality,9but perhapsnowhere are the culturallinks between food and sex strongerthanin SouthAsia.10 Not only aretherestrongsymbolic and linguistic links but also parallellogics of commensalityand endogamy stand as principalstructuresof caste society." In South Asian caste society, the basic socioculturallogic that determines whom one can marryalso determines with whom one can exchangefood.12Althoughthe boundariesof sexual exchange do not perfectly correspondwith the boundariesof food exchange, together the corporateboundariesproducedthroughpracticesof endogamyand commensality go a long way towarddeterminingthe boundariesof caste. incorIn the South Asian culturalcontext, the dangersof boundary-crossing, porativeacts are often especially marked.In a caste society-in which ritual and social rankhas traditionallybeen mediated by (among other things) concepts of purityandpollution(Dumont 1980)-boundaries of the social and corporealbody are perhapseven more minutely policed than in other societies. The boundary crossings associated with food and sex may be almost universally "dangerous," but in South Asian caste societies the correspondingmoral principles of commensality and endogamy overtly harness this danger as a means of producing and reproducingsocial difference.Who one is within caste society has everything to do with those with whom one eats (along with elaborateregulationsregarding how foods are prepared,who is doing the preparing,and who can transact The corporate what with whom) and those with whom one has sexual relations.13 at the is and marginsof the corpopoliced body (caste group) therebyproduced real body. In caste society, policing vulnerablebody marginsis central to social membership. If crossing corporateand corporeal boundariesis morally dangerous, it is also potentiallyempowering.Anthropologistshave long noted that culturaldanger almost always offers culturalpower. The recognition of danger is almost by definitionthe recognitionof power.14 Perhapseven moreexplicitly thanelsewhere, food and sex have been markedas both dangerousand powerful in South Asia. Those things markedas most dangerousfor those at the top of the caste hierarchy (e.g., eating meat and alcohol) are, among lower levels of caste society, the most powerful. In Nepal (as elsewhere in South Asia), populardeities are propitiated to high-caste ritual senwith offerings of blood and alcohol (practicesabhorrent sibilities), and Tantricforms of both Hinduism and Buddhism famously harness the powers of sexual intercourseto the liberatoryquest. Crossing and controlling

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IN KATHMANDU7 CARNAL ECONOMIES

the boundariesof the social body is clearly bound up with the culturalproduction (and protection)of power. To the extentthatcaste is a historicallysedimentedsystem of social privilege, the transgressiveimplicationsof commensalityand endogamy have long been of special concernto those seeking to preservethe sociopoliticalpowers inscribedin caste hierarchies.The very fact that Nepal's earliest formal legal codes paid such minuteattentionto the regulationof exchangesin food andsex (as I discuss in more detail below) illustrateswhat is at stake in a moraleconomy of caste when people transgressthe boundariesof specific collective bodies. This also illustrateshow the moraleconomy of Nepal's caste society has long been contested and unstable.As such, caste's currentencounterwith the morallogic of the marketis only the most of Nepali society. By focusing recentdevelopmentin the historicaltransformation on the emergenceof restaurants this and prostitution, article tracksthe dangersand powers-of culinaryand sexual transgressionas the commodificationof food and sex appropriate and transformthem. Prostitution Much has been writtenon the historyof prostitution, much less on the history of restaurants,and very little on relations between the two. Timothy Gilfoyle's review essay "Prostitutesin History" (1999) is an extremely useful summation and analysis of the huge surgein scholarlypublicationssince 1980 on the modern histories of prostitutionin many parts of the world.15One of Gilfoyle's main conclusions is that, in spite of its antiquityin many parts of the world, capitalist modernityhas generateduniqueculturesof prostitution. hada long history in the African, worlds.YetcomProstitution Asian,andWestern sexassumed newforms after1800.As urban newmiddle mercial capitalism generated andmobileworking andpatronized in exclasses,mendelayed marriage prostitutes numbers. andeconomictransformations created a ready Industrialization ceptional of migratory, women,manyof whomviewed low-wage-earning supply independent, as a viableeconomicalternative to poverty. Not only were these male prostitution in scope,buttheywereembedded in poplar, andfemalesubcultures unprecedented new behaviors of sexualexpression consumer thatcountenanced cultures modern, in earliersocieties,modandpurchase....Even while prostitution was ubiquitous of newcultural erncapitalism...generated pursuit patterns....In sum,middle-class becamea characteristic feature of modemsocietyin Asia, Europe, and prostitution America. [1999:135-136] In Nepal, modern socioeconomic processes (wage labor, industrialization,class formation,etc.) have shaped a new cultureof commercialsex. Among the many themes that connect the histories of prostitutionelsewhere with the experiencein Kathmandu is the modernassociation of prostitutionwith in general, and eating establishments,in commercialized leisure venues, public Because middle-class particular. emergent public spheres have historically been male dominated---drawing women into the new consumercultureonly graduallycommercial leisure establishments around the world have "naturally" doubled

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8 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

as markets for male sexual services.16In Kathmanduas well, prostitutionand commercial eating and drinkingestablishmentscome together in a new marketdriven,male-dominated,middle-class leisure sphere.
The Geography of Prostitution: Commercial Liminality

In the 1990s, prostitutionin Kathmandu was still very much "underground" and shroudedwith secrecy in a way that would be unimaginablein most other partsof South Asia. For example, althoughIndiannews media found prostitution a very unremarkable phenomenon(except when it came to issues such as AIDS), in Kathmandu,prostitutionwas the subject of shocking exposd and investigaIt was also illegal.18Not surprisingly,findingpeople who were tive journalism.17 knowledgeableand willing to talk aboutprostitutionwas difficult.In the hundreds of open-ended,informalinterviewsthatmy coworkersandI conducted,manypeople were willing to talk of intensely personal,even sexual, matters,but none spoke firsthand of participation in the local sex market,as either workersor consumers. The materialpresentedhere comes from interviewswith a numberof Kathmandudiseases (including basedphysiciansin clinics specializingin sexually transmitted AIDS), social workers,andjournalistswho dealt with prostitutesand theirclients as partof their professionalinvestigations.These were people who had acquired over the years significantinsights into the local sex marketthroughinteractions with sex workers and clients and researchinto the causes and consequences of 19 prostitution. Historically,various forms of sex trade never developed in the Kathmandu valley as they did in some other partsof South Asia. Although some kind of feefor-servicesex work must have existed aroundKathmandu's barracksand hostels for a very long time, the city never developed the highly visible "redlight" zones associatedwith manycolonial andpostcolonialcities in India.Neitherdid the city have the temple-basedritual "prostitution" known to have existed elsewhere on Prior to the subcontinent(cf. Marglin 1985). the 1950s, elites in Kathmandu kept women as concubines (Pradhan2048 v.s.:22-23), but the more or less customary prostitution practicesassociatedwith specific extremelylow-rankingoccupational caste groups, although not uncommon in the lowland areas of Nepal bordering Until quite recently, market-basedsex work India,20did not exist in Kathmandu. (i.e., essentially women's sexual wage labor) was a very limited and concealed valley. phenomenonin the Kathmandu That situation changed dramaticallybetween 1960 and 1980, decades that saw the Kathmanduvalley and its hinterlandsdrawn into a fast-growing cashwage and consumer economy as the city grew into a modern national capital.21 New international aid andtraderelationsproducedan enormoussurgein cash flow into the valley (Joshi 1997, Tiwari 1992) that in turnfostered a new middle-class consumerculture(Liechty 2003). Accordingto a publishedsource,the firstknown rise in brothelsin Kathmandu in the early 1960s.22But the most dramatic appeared

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CARNAL ECONOMIES IN KATHMANDU9

the numbersof prostitutes(and their visual public presence) in Kathmandu dates from the late 1970s and early 1980s, a trend that can be linked directly to the and lodges. In parallelrise of public consumersettings such as hotels, restaurants, the early 1990s, a Kathmandu-based journalistnoted, Youknowbefore alsothere usedto be prostitutes. Fifteen, yearsago [c. 1970twenty
75] there were four or five pimps who used to hang aroundby Rani Pokhari,or Ratna

going on. And then they had very limited [numbersof] women in from the villages. But now, I mean it startedonly about ten years back, aroundjust the beginning of the '80s, you could suddenlyfind these girls in all the new restaurants. There were even places right in New Road. For 50 bucks [rupees] you could get a girl, and for another50 a room.23 By the early 1990s, there were an estimated 3,500 to 5,000 women working as

If somebody Park. was seentalking withthoseguysdownthere,you knewwhatwas

full- or part-timeprostitutesin Kathmandu.24


An important reason why prostitution in Kathmandu has increased so rapidly,

althoughremainingrelatively discrete, is the emergence of new forms of public space, exemplified by areas such as New Road and Thamel (See Figure 2). New Road was Kathmandu'sfirst modern consumer district, home to the city's first hotels, and publiccinemaandshoppingcenteras well as some of its firstrestaurants, in retail establishments and high-end specializing tailoring importedready-made clothing, consumerelectronics,home appliances,photodeveloping,and video and audio cassettes. For decades, New Road (and adjacentareas) has been the focal Priorto India's economic "liberalization" point of Indiantourismin Kathmandu. in the 1990s, Kathmandu(with its relatively unrestrictedimport policies) was a favoriteshoppingdestinationfor middle-classIndians(as well as a popularHindu pilgrimagesite and casino gamblingvenue). New Road shops, hotels, lodges, and thriveon Indiantourism.Thamel,by contrast,is synonymouswith nonrestaurants
South Asian tourists. Since the 1970s, Thamel has gone from being a sleepy out-

of-the-way neighborhoodon the edge of town to the hub of a freneticallybustling curio shops, travel agencies, and touristdistrictjammed with hotels, restaurants, trekkingoutfitters. With few permanentresidents and a wide variety of commercial settings,
these new public spaces offer cover for a variety of shadowy transactions including

New Road andThamelareconvenientliminal zones, drugdealingandprostitution. outside of the close social surveillanceof the old residentialneighborhoods,where drug users and prostitutescan carryout transactionswhile melting into the urban flow. Accordingto social workers,many of Kathmandu's prostituteslive andwork in the New Road and Thamel areas precisely because of the anonymity these transient,chaotic commercialdistricts offer. Unlike almost anywhereelse in the city, prostitutesfeel comfortably ignored here and able to carry out their own business in an areacreatedby and for commercialtransactions. Although tourismhas played an importantrole in creating both New Road andThamel,the relationshipbetween prostitutionandforeignersdiffersin the two

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10 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

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places. Prostitutionthrives in both areas because of their heavy concentrations of restaurants and lodges, but in the New Road area, Indian tourists (as well as businessmen,travelers,and residents)are its main, althoughnot exclusive, clientele. Although many in Nepal worry that Kathmanduis becoming a sex tourism

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CARNAL ECONOMIESIN KATHMANDU 11

destinationfor Indians(Dixit n.d.:13), it is much more likely thatIndianswho are in Nepal for otherreasons(business,shopping,gambling,or pilgrimage)also seek out the services of sex workers.The huge numbersof Nepali women working in Indianbrothels (Pradhan2048 v.s.) mean that Nepal is associated with prostitution in the minds of many Indians. As one Nepali source put it, Nepal seems to attractIndian ve{sa}y{am} prem{im} (prostitutelovers).25The large volume of Indiantourists,as well as businessmenwho often live in Kathmandu withouttheir families and transport workers(truckand taxi drivers),help to maintainan active prostitutionbusiness in the New Road area.26 Thamelis also well-knownas a centerof prostitution in Kathmandu, although the links between tourism and sex are less immediate. As in New Road, prostiandhotels serve as pick-uppoints tutes reportthata numberof Thamelrestaurants fronts for Yet unlike New Road, touristsare not the and/or organizedprostitution. main customerbase for prostitutesin Thamel. Althoughpeople in Kathmandu often assumethatthe relativelywealthyWesternandEastAsian touriststhatfrequent Thamel also keep prostitutesin business, all of my sources agreed that instances of non-SouthAsian touristssoliciting Nepali prostituteswere rare.27 Of the social workersI interviewedin the early 1990s, none reportedhavingheardof prostitutes who had served American or kuire (both generic names for non-South Asians) In fact, most non-South Asian touristscome to Kathmandu tourists.28 looking for thanan eroticexperience.29 an exotic rather Local Nepali men formthe clientele for herebecause they,along with the sex workersthemselves, can take adprostitution in commodifiedsex. commercialauraof Thamelto transact vantageof the transient New Road and Urban,transient,andcommercialzones such as Kathmandu's Thamel are places where modernprostitutionhas become "naturalized"-where in sexualgratification takeplace (andtaketheir impersonaltransactions "naturally" place) among countless other impersonalcommodity transactions.These liminal commodityzones arealso wherebodies lose theircaste-basedmoralmeaningsand become anonymouspartsof a "freemarket" of commercialexchange.The modern marketcreates spaces in the city where the caste body (and its transactional moral logic) becomes a class body, "free"to transactin a new domain of value: cash. Fact VersusFantasy: TheMiddle-ClassDiscourse of Prostitution The sudden surge in prostitutionaround 1980 seems to stem from a combination of four components:cash, mobility, anonymity,and fantasy. Arguably, the rapid expansion of prostitutionin Kathmanduoccurredonly at the moment when these factorscoalesced. As the local economy became increasinglyinfused with cash (leaving those on the social marginsincreasingly vulnerable)30 and as Nepalis andforeignersbecame morephysically mobile (moving out of the morally constrainingorbitsof kin andcommunity),commercialvenues such as restaurants and lodging arose to meet the needs of a mobile population,forming transient, anonymouszones in the city, and the supply and demandfor-indeed the possibility of-large-scale prostitutionemerged.

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12 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

Fantasyis a much more difficultelement to evaluate.Prostitutionand pornographic media consumptionare linked consumer trends in Kathmandu(Liechty 1994:439-473). Back-alley video parlorsthat specialize in "blue films" are wellknownpick-uppointsfor prostitutes,31 andsex workersthemselvesreportedclients videos with sexual encounters.The arrivalof video techcombiningpornographic nology and widespreadconsumptionof videos (including pornography)around 1980 occurredat roughly the same time that informantsnoted a sudden rise in prostitutionin Kathmandu.What pornographyand prostitutionshare is the collapsing of sexual desire and gratificationinto the commodity form. When sexual gratificationbecomes a leisure commodity,purchasingit in the form of a prostitute is only one step away from purchasingit in the form of a blue film. They are two manifestationsof the same consumer desire. Even if it is impossible to prove causal links between the two, it seems reasonableto assume that at least in Kathmandu some of the growthof prostitution is linkedto the increasedcirculamedia.32In these media, tion of the sexual fantasiesassociatedwith pornographic sexual relationsbecome experiencesof individualconsumergratificationwithin a commercialleisure economy. In commercially mediated contexts such as these, the body of the sexual other is pulled out of a caste-based paradigmthat identifies corporealessences and ranks them in hierarchiesof purity,pollution, and power and is reimagined in a new paradigmof pleasure,price, and power. Once the prostitute'sbody has been commodified, it becomes fertile grounds for commodity aestheticization, of "sex"itself (Haug 1987). Commodifiedbodies and alongsidean aestheticization of become of objects"and "objectpaths"through parts larger"networks pleasures which meanings move promiscuously,displacing desire from one commodity to another(Baudrillard1988:31). As commodities,bodies (and bodily pleasures)are easily "infected"by the meaningscirculatingin the object and image networksin which these bodies move and in which other object bodies are represented(film, magazines, fashion, etc.). In short, part of the story of "modern"prostitutionin Kathmanduis the story of the emergence of the "free"body in a "free market." Freedfromthe sociomoralconstraintsof the caste body,bodies arefree to circulate among the images and fantasies of the commodity market. Clearly, the sudden since the 1980s is tied to the emergenceof a growthof prostitutionin Kathmandu new economy of sexual-body-commodity fantasy. Kathmandu's local middle-classmoraleconomy is anotherkey fantasyrealm through which "the prostitute"circulates. Rumors, gossip, and accusations of prostitution are central themes in a variety of moral critiques that help define "ideal" middle-class behavior, especially for women. Attributionsof sexual impropriety-especially, the sale of sex for money or goods-are one of the most common means by which people seeking to create a middle-class culturein Kathmandu For those claiming Kathmandu's morallycritiquetheirclass "others." moral middle, prostitutionis often associated with the seductive allure of fashion and is always something located socially "below" (because of poverty and

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CARNAL ECONOMIESIN KATHMANDU 13

immorality)or "above"(because of affluence and immorality).This almost gratuitous talk of prostitutionin so much of middle-class discourse makes it nearly impossible to separatethe reality from the fantasiesof sex work in Kathmandu.33 When I first heard tales of women prostitutingthemselves for fashion, I thought I had come upon a particularlyheinous twist in the story of Nepal's But as the same story was told to me over and over again capitalistmodernization. former "An old classmate of mine,""A secretaryat my office," ("My neighbor," "Someschool girls,""Somenurses,""Somewaitresses,""GirlsfromDarjeeling"), I beganto see this tale in a differentlight. I began to wonderif, when people spoke of women who turnto prostitutionto satisfy desires for materialgoods, they were really telling a kind of moralitytale-a tale that is less about the morality of the women than aboutthe moralityof the goods. This is not to say that no one trades sex for goods. They likely do, at least occasionally. But more importantly, for the people in the middle class telling this tale and imagining this chain of events, the is a way of expressing anxiety over the power of story of the "fashionprostitute" the new world of consumergoods. Throughtales such as these, people claiming the moral middle express their fears of a world of alluringbut somehow sinister fashion goods: a world that threatensto turn wives, daughters, and sisters into prostitutes.By locating the prostitution"fashionfall" in classes below and above, people "in the middle"can at once claim the moral high groundand abreacttheir own middle-class nightmares. The litany of "probable" fashion prostitutes(secretaries,schoolgirls, nurses, waitresses,girls fromDarjeeling,etc.) also points to a second formof middle-class moral anxiety: the problems surroundingwomen's work and women's independence in a patriarchal middle class society. Even thoughmembersof Kathmandu's are precisely those people who have used the city's exploding marketeconomy as their vehicle to socioeconomic and culturalindependence (free from the "irrational"stricturesof the previous caste-based "traditional" society), these same middle-class people are profoundly uneasy with the prospect of women (especially unmarriedwomen) using the marketeconomy as the basis for their own autonomy.Women in the marketwere the targets of powerful moral condemnation (by women as often as men). I often had the impressionthat, in the minds of members of Kathmandu'smiddle class, an unmarriedwoman who was working and appearedto have money (who "does fashion") was, almost by definition, a prostitute-especially if she had no clear social ties to the community. For this reason, few people could resist introducingfashion into the already fraughtdiscourseof women andwork.One young woman(interviewedby a female coworker) described how office work compelled women into both fashion and moralcompromise: to dofashionjust to feed themselves. Somepeople,theyhavebeencompelled Like in the travelagencies.I've heardthatthey tell the girls, "Ordinary isn't enough!" to wearstandard orlose their Theyareobliged [fancy, clothing jobs.They expensive] haveto looktip-top. That's whythegirlswhoworktherehaveto dofashionwhether

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14 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY they can affordit or not. It's for the boss, too, you know.They have to be good looking.34 Workingin an office, women have no choice but to go beyond acceptable, "ordinary"middle-class attire into the realm of the socially (and sexually) improper. Closing out this woman's remarksis the gratuitoussexual innuendo linking the high-fashionfemale office workerwith "theboss." With so much sexual stigma surrounding women, labor,and fashion, a great deal of sexual fantasyis projectedonto almost any seemingly independentwomen in the public domain. Travel agency or hotel receptionists ("They also work as 'escorts' "), secretaries("It'sfor the boss too, you know"), nurses ("Theyknow a lot aboutcontraception"), and waitresses:In the popularimagination,all of them are more or less synonymous with prostitutes.The "Darjeelinggirl" is another of these fantasy categories. Because people from Darjeeling are likely to have better English skills (as well as being more outgoing and cosmopolitan) than those from Nepal, they are in considerabledemand for private-sectoroffice jobs in Kathmandu.35 On the basis of this reputation,some local women competingfor those jobs also claim to be from Darjeeling.The result is a kind of vicious circle: because "Darjeeling wage relations(andbecause girls"areinvolvedin subordinate with males), they must also and interact are and outgoing sophisticated, they they be prostitutes. Ironically, according to some informants, this sexually charged reputationresults in some local prostitutesclaiming to be "Darjeelinggirls." Put simply, in Kathmanduin the early 1990s, almost any form of female wage labor-even in the seemingly reputableupmarketcommercial sector-was likely to be shroudedin a haze of sexual innuendo,at least in popularmiddle-class discourse. Any wage-based relationshipbetween a male superior and a female employee was open to sexualinsinuationas thoughthe only possible basis for wage transactions across this power and gender gradientwas prostitution.According to this middle-classpatriarchal fantasy,the underlyingbasis for anywoman'searnings of of sexual services:a womanhas nothingto offer in the was some kind transaction but sex.36At the very least, this condemnationof women's wage labor marketplace to the powerful genderingof the marketeconomy as male. As producers points and laborers,women enterthis economy only as objects of male consumerdesire. The "rightful" place of the middle-classwomanin the marketis as a consumer, not as a producer. collapses these Significantly,theimage of the "fashionprostitute" two roles, highlightingthe contradictionof middle-class women's empowerment and disempowermentin the new marketeconomy. Middle-class women are expected to consume-to bear the burden of presenting the fashioned body-but their labor is immediately suspect. Thus, the woman who sells her body to buy fashionsis the ultimatefantasyoutcome (andlikely real outcome) of the gendered marketeconomy. Perhapsan even more powerfully charged sexual fantasy category is "the schoolgirl." Like wage-earning women, schoolgirls still seem to be a social

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CARNAL ECONOMIESIN KATHMANDU 15

middle-classpatriarchal sensibilities. Along anomalythatthreatensKathmandu's with office women, schoolgirls are females that exist outside of the "acceptable" male dominateddomains of household and kin networks (even if for only a few hours a day). As such, they become the objects of unbridledsexual fantasy.37I was repeatedlytold of scandalsinvolving schoolgirls and prostitution,most often studentsfrom Kathmandu's all-female PadmaKanya(P.K.)College or St. Mary's School in Jawalakel. Some of these stories dated back to the 1970s and most pointed to "fashion"as the compelling culprit. People that I interviewed said that they did indeed encounter some young schools engaged in prostitution, but muchmore common women from Kathmandu One social workertold me of how were women who pretendedto be schoolgirls.38 sex workers,hoping to capitalize on male fantasies, will carry aroundcopies of English magazines or novels and even buy school uniforms. "They feel that if they look like a P.K. student,the customerswill be willing to pay a lot of money." Anotherinformantspoke of a restaurant in Bhag Bazaar (near the PadmaKanya in where she saw women P.K. uniforms campus) being picked up by clients. How much schoolgirl impersonationgoes on among Kathmandu prostitutes is impossible to say, but thereis no denying thatwhen it comes to sexual fantasies, in the words of one male informant,"Boys really go for girls from these [P.K.,St. Mary's,etc.] places."It is probablyno coincidence thatyoung men in Kathmandu who mentionedpornographic (or blue films) as among theirfavoritetypes of film or video (a groupthatincludedmost urban-born, middle-class males) when asked to nametheirfavoriteX-ratedfilm(s) were rarelyable to rememberany othersaside fromones with "schoolgirls"in the title:"Sexy Schoolgirls,""Private Schoolgirls," and so forth (Liechty 1994:439-473).39 Clearly,erotic fantasiesof "schoolgirls," "Darjeelinggirls,"and "officegirls" help to drivethe local sex-workmarketwhile also advancingmiddle-classprojects of social distancingandconsumercritiqueand validatingpatriarchal regulationof women's honor and suitable sexuality. It is because prostitutionis embedded in such a complex mixtureof erotic, social, andmoralenterprisesthatit is so difficult to separatethe "fact"from the "fiction"of sex work in Kathmandu.Indeed, the "fictions"of erotic fantasiesclearly help drive the "facts"of the local sex market. If these media- and market-inflected, paternalisticfictions are one more or less modern frame in which prostitutionis imagined, the social logic of caste is another.As noted above, sexual relations and caste are inextricably linked: the logic of caste largely determineswhich sexual relations (across various caste lines) are permittedand prohibited. Significantly, as the 19th-centuryrulers of Nepal attemptedto codify caste hierarchyand practice in an effort to bring the entire nation into a single rankedcaste society, they paid meticulous attentionto mattersof sexual interaction.According to AndrasHofer, more than one-thirdof Nepal's firstformalnationallegal code, the MulukiAin of 1854, "dealswith sexual relations, both inter-casteand intra-caste.The scrupulousaccuracy of the legislator amply confirmsthe importancethese relations have for the maintenanceof

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16 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

the [socioreligious] hierarchy" (1979:69). As it sought to protect a nationalcaste Nepali state hierarchythroughthe codificationof caste practices,the 19th-century built an elaboratesystem of prohibitionsaroundthe basic principlethat"sexualintercourseis forbidden... between membersof pureandimpurecastes"(1979:69). The state's interest in regulating sexuality was a fundamentalpart of its interest in protectingthe boundariesof caste groups and therebyprotectingthe social privileges of the uppercastes. In the context of Kathmandu's increasingly class-oriented social ethos, observanceof these old social prohibitionsis giving way to the logic of the market. As commodifiedgratification,sexual intercourseis no longer conductedbetween bearersof caste bodies (with all their attendantsociomoral sensibilities and consequences) but between bodies situated in the strictly "rational"categories of commercialexchange:seller andbuyer,workerand consumer.Whereassex workers tend to be from traditionally"low"castes and communities,theirclients come from across the spectrumof caste and ethnic groups in Nepal.40Yet what most of these male consumershave in commonis a generalmiddle-classstatus;the kind of disposableincome needed to engage in consumersex means thatmost patronsare membersof Kathmandu's urbanmiddleclass (or theirIndiancounterparts).41 Conmiddle class is still largely,althoughnot exclusively, upper sideringKathmandu's caste, this means that many, if not most, of these sexual commodity transactions are occurringacross the old boundariesof "pure"and "impure" castes. the moral transgressionthat it Among sex workers,this caste disparity,and represents,has become somethingof a joke. As one informantmentioned,"When I've spoken to these women they laugh about how the Brahmanboys won't take water from them, but they're willing to 'take a kiss' !" (Here, the English word kiss is a euphemismfor sexual intercourse.)For these men, the old caste logic of sexual transgression has fallen away,but acceptingwaterfrom an "impure" person is still defiling. Upper-castemen may retainscruples(or at least deeply ingrained, embodied revulsion) in mattersof caste commensality,but in matters of sexual relations,caste-basedprincipleshave given way to the pleasuresandgratifications the "free"market. The apparentlygreater persistence of commensal prohibitions (versus intercaste sexual regulations)in Nepali society has a certain logic. Although it is to Westernways of thinking,in Nepal the limits of interperhapscounterintuitive been set even more narrowlythanthe limits caste commensalityhave traditionally of intercastesexual relations(Hofer 1979:81). In otherwords,the rules concerning from whom one can accept differentkinds of food and drinkhave been even more minutely (andrestrictively)delineatedthanthose thatregulatewith whom one can have legitimate sexual relations. For example, Nepal's MulukiAin of 1854 lays in which the out severalinstances of permissiblehypergamousmarriageunions,42 higher-castehusbandis prohibitedfrom accepting cooked food from his slightly lower-castewife or, in othercases, from his own children(1979:81). By this logic, one's caste body-especially those of the highestcaste groups-was so susceptible

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CARNAL ECONOMIESIN KATHMANDU 17

from the biomoralbodies of othersthateven to the dangersof impuritytransmitted one's own wife and childrencould be defiling! The ultimatesocial penalty of outcasting (and therefore loss of high-caste privilege) was the price to be paid for daring to allow impuritiesto transgressthe boundariesof (or become incorpoFor this reason, rated into) one's body, and therefore,one's caste community.43 the emergence of a vibrantrestaurant culturein Kathmandu is perhapseven more The noteworthythanthe parallelgrowthof large-scale,market-driven prostitution. commercializationof food exchanges representsan even greatertransformation of sociomorallogics than the commodificationof sexual intercourseeven if both follow a similartrajectory. Restaurants Comparedto recent historical studies of prostitution,researchinto the hisof tory public eating remains limited and is almost entirely focused on Europe. Several recent works considerthe emergence of restaurants (Spang 2000) and the in commercializationof culinaryarts Europe(Trubek2000).44Just as premodern and modem forms of prostitutionare distinctly different, Spang and Trubekar(as opposed to earlierpublic eating venues such as cafes, gue that the restaurant with its cultureof privacy,individuation,gourmandizing,and and inns, taverns), is a distinctlymodem formof consumerleisure. Especulinaryprofessionalization, cially relevantto this studyare Spang's observationson relationsbetween Parisian andnew formsof middle-classconsumersexuality.Accordingto Spang restaurants the most distinctivefeatures"were cabinetsparticuliers (pri"among restaurant's vate rooms), which were widely viewed as spaces for "illicit rendezvous of all descriptions"(2000:117, 208). The commercially available "public privacy"of the restaurant cabinet was "less like thatof a family dining room ... thanthat of a like bedroom"(2000:213). Spangdescribeshow 19th-century Parisianrestaurants, the prostitution thatthey were so intimatelyassociatedwith, were thoughtto "provide polite male society with one of its necessary safety valves" (2000:213). As in restaurants serviced the carnalappetites-culinary and sexual-of a Kathmandu, middle-class male clientele. For the purposes of this article, perhapsthe most relevantcomparisonsare not between South Asia and the West but between Nepal and India. Both Nepal and India share a basic set of "Indic"cultural traditions,but different national histories have meant that the commercializationof culinary and sexual services have been underwayfar longer in India than in Nepal. The emergence of largescale commercialprostitution duringthe Britishcolonial eraandthe relativelyearly emergenceof western-styleeating establishmentsin places like Bombay (Conlon 1995) putIndiafaraheadof Nepal in termsof commercialization.45 Nepal's almost total isolation up to 1951,46followed by its speedy emergence as a mass-tourist destination, combined with its unusual caste culture,47have meant that Nepal has had very differenthistorical experiences with commercial marketformation

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18 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

and consumer culture.In fact, the speed with which certainculturaltransactions an ideal place to considerthe cultural have enteredthe marketmakes Kathmandu of commodification. dynamics in the West, the Although we have the beginnings of a history of restaurants history and culturalpracticeof public eating in South Asia remainslargely unexamined.FrankConlon's article"Diningout in Bombay"(1995) is perhapsthe only formal study of restaurant culture in South Asia. Conlon focuses mainly on the buthe only brieflydiscusses Britishcolonial rootsof Bombay'srestaurant culture,48 how "Hinduideological concerns for commensality and purity... contributedto anxiety regardingthe provenanceand purityof food for consumption... in places of public dining" (1995:92). RavindraKhare's work (1976) on Hindu domestic foodways also briefly alludes to the moral perils of restaurant eating. Khare with their disregardfor "orthodoxculinaryandjati [caste] notes that restaurants, commensal rules," stand as a "total refutation"of the moral and religious food practicesthat are taughtin (especially high-caste) Hindu homes (1976:246). This "totalrefutation"of orthodox Hindu foodways is what makes the emergence of a popularrestaurant culturein Kathmandu so remarkable,especially considering that the leading patronsof commercialfood services are not just middle class but uppercaste. Making Restaurant Culture in Kathmandu As in Europe, where restaurantsemerged from centuries-old traditionsof cook shops, alehouses, taverns,and eventually coffeehouses and cafes (Mennell was also 1985, Spang 2000, Trubek2000), in Kathmanduthe modern restaurant and alcohol and a of establishments predatedby variety providingsnacks, meals, servingthe needs of transientsandtravelers(Liechty 2001a). ForStephenMennell, a restaurant is a place with "a particularcombination of style and type of food, social milieu and social function" (1985:136). In Kathmandu,this coalescence of style, menu, and social role occurredgraduallyin the decades following 1951 with the firstrestaurants emergingto meet the changingneeds of a changingurban population. out"street-level" restaurants-that is, restaurants The first of Kathmandu's side of two or three high-pricedhotels that cateredexclusively to expatriatesand local elites-were several pie and cake shops located in a neighborhoodof untouchables (members of the local butchers caste) near the heart of the old city. Startingin the mid-1960s, these pastry shops were patronizedmainly by youthful foreign tourists. Significantly, caste played a key role in this early chapter in local restauranthistory. In the mid-1950s, a steadily growing population of USAID policy, then USAID personnel set up homes in or near Kathmandu.49 as now, aimed to transplantentire American nuclear families, setting up "the wife and kids" in single-family homes near the USAID compound (a converted 19th-century palace southwestof the old city). Along with enormousbaggage allowances and "commissaryprivileges"-access to a warehouseof Americanfood

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CARNAL ECONOMIESIN KATHMANDU 19

regularlyairlifted in-these American households also employed numerousdomestic servants. As in the homes of Nepali elites, most of these servants came from low-caste groups (e.g., sweepers and gardeners),but problems arose when attemptingto employ cooks. Whereashigh-caste Nepali elites employed equally high-caste cooks (to maintaintheir caste purity), Americans, because they were themselves rituallyuntouchable,could find no one but the lowest of the low castes willing to take on the grossly defiling task of running a kitchen for beef-eating non-Hinduforeigners.50 By the mid-1960s, a numberof men from the local Newar butcherscaste had workedas cooks in USAID homes where they had learnedto make, among other things, excellent American-stylepies and cakes. When their Americanemployers left Nepal, severalformercooks establishedbakeshops in theirhomes, which soon became popularwith young tourists, American Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs), andexpatriates.One Kathmandu resident,who was in his mid-twentiesat the time, recalled, "They knew how to make pies! And they were clean so you didn't get the very few sick eating there,so soon they were very popularwith the Westerners, are Westerners who at that all closed were time. now, but this They young coming is how it started." Although neat and clean, these shops runby untouchableswere ritually out-of-boundsfor most Kathmanduresidents, especially the upper-caste people who could have affordedthem. It is importantto see how these pioneering publiceating establishmentsemergedat the historicalintersectionof Kathmandu's local caste culture and a new transnationalconsumer culture (i.e., tourism and tradewere those at the development).The firstNepalis to breakinto the restaurant bottom of the caste hierarchy-those with the least to lose from transgressingthe rules of purityand dangerassociatedwith transactionsin food. Once their moneymaking potential had been demonstrated,before long higher-caste Nepalis began to overcome their scruples by opening (and patronand izing) restaurants.By the late 1960s, places like the "Yin Yang Restaurant" "AuntJane's" (opened by Jane Martin, the American wife of the local Peace Corpdirector[Wheeler 1973:200, McHugh2001:6-9]) were serving up apple pie, "buff"(waterbuffalo)burgers,and iodine-soakedsalads to young tourists,PCVs, and a handful of adventuresomelocal Nepali young people. One of those local teenagers-a man who by the 1990s had become one of Nepal's most successful hoteliers-spoke fondly, even nostalgically, about the ambiance and almost magical auraof these early restaurants. there! When AuntJane's? Wasn't thatbeautiful, Lookattheatmosphere AuntJane's? used you go, thatrestaurant, everyMarine boy usedto go there,all thesediplomats to go there,all the richpeopleusedto go there,the richNepaleseboys used to go andthatwas likethe"Yin Street there.... [And] restaurants Yang"-thatwasin Freak I usedto go to thoserestaurants fantastic! andhearthe songsof thesehippies.That I meanrestaurants with was a sudden changein the life-a new kindof restaurant. Youknowthe discos the dim lights,andthe musicgoingon, andthe discotheques. to enjoytheambiance of that in the60s. So thatwastheattraction. started Wewanted kindof nightlife. Like,musicgoingon till 10 in the night.Andat thattime,strange

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20 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY kinds of food, like pancakes,pie, cake and all these things. All those were very new things, so many people like us, we were very attractedby these kinds of new things. [At that time] it was fashionable.But it was more than [just] fashion. It was looking for knowledge, a quest for new things.51

What so captivatedthis young man was a combinationof food, ambiance, and (1985:136). sociality-the threeelements of Mennell's definitionof a "restaurant" For Nepalis, this was a "suddenchange."These new establishmentswere about much more thanjust provisioningfood: they were places to be and be seen while eating special foods in an intentionally created ambiance. In this context, the meaningof food was no longer its sociomoral(caste) provenancebutits "fashion." As commodified style, food (and eating) had become markersof a new form of prestige based in a logic of class. catering By the early 1970s, dozens of Nepalis had set up theirown restaurants touristdistricts mainly to growing numbersof young tourists.Soon Kathmandu's to pizza parlorsand boastedeateriesrangingfrombakeriesandMexicanrestaurants health-foodrestaurants. On the growing global youth tourist circuit, Kathmandu was known as the "Alice's Restaurantof the East,"a place where "you can get anythingyou want."Along with cheap hashish,food became one of Kathmandu's prime touristattractions. Between 1960 and 1990, the number of public eating establishments in Kathmandurose from no more than a few dozen to, by one informant'sestimate, at least 7,000, including everythingfrom tea shops to five-starrestaurants. Although some of these establishmentsserve expatriateand touristclientele, few do so exclusively, and most (especially at the lower end) cater almost entirely to restaurant local Kathmandu residents.The growthof Kathmandu's culturehas to be seen in light of the new social demands of an increasingly class-based society. In the new class and consumer society-with its changing patternsof labor and social distinction-restaurants, as public consumerspaces, serve as important venues for a new kind of sociality. Class society demands a new public sphere governedby the logic of the marketand its enveloping constellationof "modern" values (achievement,progress,and consumermaterialism).52 In 1960, almost no self-respectingNepali would have eaten in one of these public eateries,butby the 1990s tens of thousandsof local residentsof all caste and on a regularbasis. Althoughthe arrival ethnic backgroundsfrequentedrestaurants of foreignersandforeign-stylerestaurants had some impacton local perceptionssurroundingpublic eating with a new aura of style and desire-other developments in the city were much more important.When I asked a Kathmandu man why so many people went to restaurants today when they would not have
30 years earlier he replied, "Because the people now aren't the same ones as

30 years ago!"
What had happened? A variety of factors, such as population growth, greater cash flow, greater availability of different foods, and new patterns of labor and

time use, are importantcontributors to the rise of public eating in Kathmandu.53

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CARNAL ECONOMIESIN KATHMANDU 21

However, I wish to focus on what may be a more importantshift in the cultural logic of eating. The attitudesthat kept most Kathmanduresidents out of public eatingestablishmentsup untilthe 1960s had little to do with purelysocioeconomic fare since the 1960s matters.In Kathmandu,the surge in demand for restaurant accompanies a shift from an earlier caste-based logic of social interactionto an increasinglyinescapableclass-based culturaldynamic. As caste-basedritualconcerns areincreasinglyconfinedto private,domestic settings,the new public sphere revolves ever more aroundthe new logic of wage labor, markettransaction,and consumerism.54 Prior to the 1960s and 1970s (and for many elderly people still), food and eating were extremely important,sensitive, and consequentialelements of daily social life. Food-its cooking, eating,giving, andreceiving-is one of the principle domainsin which social rankand prestige are played out in a caste society.55One Newar family recalledhow for most elderlywoman from a high-caste Kathmandu of her life the matterof food had been tightly bound up in issues of rank,purity, and avoidance. She emulated the behaviors of the Rana elites and, even in the early 1990s, recalled with obvious pride that she used to serve food to Ranas and they would eat it, a sign of ritual and social parity.56This woman-like most the othersof her generation-was constantlyattunedto questionsof who prepared foods she ate, how they were prepared,and the ritual status implications of food transactions. was still anathema. Forthis elderlywoman,the thoughtof going to a restaurant Her son told of his mother'sdistressupon hearingthathe had eaten in restaurants. Ratherthan having him leave home to eat, she promisedthat all he had to do was ask and she would prepareany kind of special food he wanted. Sensitive to her attitudestowardcaste, she warnedhim that eating in a restaurant son's "modern" is dangerousnot only in termsof ritualpollutionbut because food is a particularly conducive substancefor the transmissionof other kinds of evil.57Eating outside opens the door to evil spells, spirits, and witchcraft.This young man noted how his own wife would pick up where his motherleft off, discouraginghis restaurantconditionsandpossible infections. "Those going habitwith warningsof unsanitary places cook for money,"she told him. "I cook for love." From ritual pollution, to witches, to germs, the reasons that women use to discourage men from eating commercially preparedfoods may have changed, but the implications of restaurant eating for domestic relations between women and men remain. Kathmandu'snew middle-class public sphere is by no means limited to men; women controla large partof a family's domestic budget and are a clearly targetedmarketsector.However,public eating remainsa gender-marked consumer activity, and throughoutthe 1990s, it was still unusual to find women even in groups.In an interviewconducted by men in a restaurant, unaccompanied in 1991 by a female coworker,one unmarriedwomen in her mid-twenties-the of a small Kathmandu beautyparlor-described herfeelings about owner-manager eating in restaurants.

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22 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY Do youliketo go to restaurants? one in frontof thebeauty Yeah,some.There's parlorI justgo thereandaskthemto formewhileI'mworking. ... ButI don'tgo to other somechowmein restaurants, bring whereI don'tknowthepeople. restaurants? Whydon'tyoulikegoingto other That'swhy I justtakeit and I don'tknow,I justfeel oddeveneatingin a restaurant. eat it at the beauty [when parlor I get the feelingthatpeopleareprobably thinking in a restaurant] about? ... If whatcouldtheybe talking theysee a woman sitting "Hey, thenthey'llgo andsay to my family,"Oh, sees me eatingin a restaurant, somebody andI feel thatthis wouldbe not good for my we saw her sittingin a restaurant!" reputation-itwouldearnme a badname.I mean,therecouldbe no biggerloss than this,no? Especially for urbanmiddle-class women, prestige or ijjat (honor)is too precious and precariousa possession to risk losing at a restaurant. Beyond concerns for their personalreputations,there are other reasons why women remaina relativelyunderrepresented pubsegmentof the restaurant-going lic. Culinarypractice within the caste paradigmhas importantimplications for domestic gender politics. Because women have traditionallybeen preparersof food and men have been consumers, women and women's status are that much more tied to, and invested in, the domestic productionand consumptionof food, whereasmen have relativelyless to lose by eating outside the home. As preparers and producersof rituallycompliantfood, women not only "cook for love" but for status. In the logic of food purity and pollution, women protect a family's (and thereforea community's)caste standing,which is a role of no small significance. In effect, a caste-based practicekeeps food preparation and consumptionwithin the home and controlledby women. Men eating outside the home may mean less work for women, but it also means less culturaland political authority. Anotherreasonwhy restaurant going is a noticeablygendered(male) activity is the "unsavory" associationsrestaurants have with the consumptionof meat and alcohol. Both meat and alcohol have traditionally been markedas vulgar,defiling, and dangerousfoods best avoided by women and upper castes (Hofer 1979:53). Changingattitudestowardmeat and alcohol, especially among upper-castemen, As in other have contributed enormouslyto the rise of public eatingin Kathmandu. in have traditionallyfollowed partsof Hindu South Asia, high-castegroups Nepal prohibitionson meat and alcohol, althoughin a somewhat more relaxed manner than among similar caste groups to the south.58For example, both Nepali Chetris (Ksatriyas)and Brahmanseat goat meat (unlike most Brahmans,who have purely vegetariandiets), but traditionallyneitherhas consumed alcohol or buffalo meat. Indeed the 18th- and 19th-centuryChetriand Brahmanrulers of Nepal classified Kathmandu Newars as ritually untouchableon the specific grounds that Newars used "liquorand buffalo meat both for ritualand domestic consumption"(Nepali 1965:148). Many of the people I spoke with agreedthatuntil very recently Chetris or Brahmansin Kathmanducould expect to be ritually outcasted if they were

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IN KATHMANDU23 CARNAL ECONOMIES

knownto consume alcohol or buffalo meat. A ChetrijournalistI spoke with noted how, by the early 1990s, it was "normal"for even high-caste Hindus to drink alcohol and eat buffalomeat:"If they had done thatjust 20 years back, not talking about50, that guy would have been an outcaste. But now they do it openly." This easing of prohibitionsagainst alcohol and buffalo meat among uppercaste men seems to be both cause and effect of the growing availabilityof commerciallypreparedfoods. The lowly "momo"-a Tibetan-stylemeat dumplingplayed an importantrole in this transformation.In the 1960s, as Tibetans fled to Nepal following the Chinese invasion of Tibet, refugees began selling momos One middle-aged from street side stalls and, soon, in small enclosed restaurants. KathmanduBrahmanexplained local responses to these new momo establishments: "Newarshave always been eating [momos], but the higher castes didn't. Now they do, but they don't eat openly. They eat only inside a momo shop. They won't take it home, but when they go to a restaurant,they do eat." He went on to describe how, before the 1970s, it was very risky for upper-castepeople to eat culture started,when they startedselling momomos: "But when this restaurant it in then mos a properrestaurant, really picked up. Because initially people felt it quite difficult to have momos, especially Bahuns [Brahmans]and Chetris,they felt quite uncomfortableeating outside. So when these Tibetan refugees started opening a restaurant-a closed restaurant-the business really picked up."Ironically, it was the privacyof these public eating establishmentsthat finally allowed upper-castemen to relax theirdietaryprohibitionsagainstbuffalomeat, ignore the ritual impuritiesimpartedby low-caste cooks, and succumb to the allure of the new "restaurant culture." is also an important The anonymitythatallowed upper-castesinto restaurants residentsgoing to a restaurant, factorfor otherpatrons.FormanyKathmandu espemomo and m{am}su parik{am}r (lit., meat-menu)shops, cially the "lower-end" is still a somewhat shameful practice, even for people who are not high caste. Consumingmeat, and especially alcohol, outside the home carries the stigma of crudeness,vulgarity,and lack of control.When it comes to meat and alcohol conis a matterof "Luk{im}, luk{im}, sumption,for many patrons,restaurant-going as one one middle-aged Newar family man goes], j{am}ncha" [Hiding, hiding, to avoid being seen by one's a concern is For explained. many men, primary in-laws and kin (especially se{amp}hno m{am}nche (own people), including niors). These are the ones that a man tries to avoid when entering or exiting a back-streetmeat and alcohol restaurant. One of the crucialchangesthatdrawsmen into these meat and alcohol restaurantsis thatincreasinglya person's{am}phno m{am}nche areno longertheircaste and kin fellows but their class fellows. Unlike in previous generations, when a man would have most likely worked everyday with his {am}phno m{am}nche in various kinds of caste-based craft, farming, or trade occupations, changes in middle-class employment now make it far more likely that a person's work associates-and social acquaintances-come from a range of caste, ethnic, and

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24 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

regional backgrounds.Yet even while work places increasingly become socially integrated,it is still awkwardfor people to entertainfriends and acquaintances from othercaste or ethnic backgroundsin theirown homes. The logic of caste hierarchiesand ritualpollution may have retreated(for the most part)from the new class- andmarket-dominated public sphere,but its legacy lives on in the domestic setting. Several people explained how, out of deference to their parents(or other elders), they would not bring work colleagues to their homes. But even in many nuclearfamilies-where no one need fearoffendingthe sensibilitiesof elders-the domesticacts of cooking, serving,andeatingfood arestill inescapablysurrounded thatallowspeople to be fully atease only whenmatters by an auraof ritualpropriety of purityare properlyobserved.For all of these reasons,restaurants have become more and more important focal points for a new kind of sociability emergingfrom new conditions of labor and class. Whereas the home continues to preserve the offer venues for the commensalityof class. commensalityof caste, restaurants The enormous proliferationof restaurantsspecializing in alcohol and meat dishes points to the emergence of this new kind of gendered and class-based commensality. Perhaps because of their association with ritual and physical meat and alcohol have become the staples of male restaurantculture danger,59 in Kathmandu.60 From chang (Tibetanbarley beer) and momos in a filthy back or streetdive, to JohnnyWalkerand khas{im} (goat meat) in a five-starrestaurant bar (and many stages in between), there are meat and alcohol combinationsand venues to match almost every income and level of distinction. To the extent that this kind of consumer sociality depends on commercially has become a centralfeatureof male sociabilprovidedservices, restaurant-going a to There is the effect thata man who does not drink,eat meat, ity. popularsaying and smoke has no friends. One man explained how a friend, or group of friends, will come by and say "Let's go to a restaurant!" where it is assumed that each man would pay for himself. Saying "no"not only puts one at risk of being seen as antisocialbut, even worse, as unableto affordit, hen-pecked,or not tough enough to handleliquor.In Kathmandu's a plate small, backstreetmeat-menurestaurants, of fried meat (buffalo, goat, or pork) and a half glass of raks{im} (a clear, potent rice liquor) sold for around 12 to 15 Nepali rupees ([Rs.] in the early 1990s), an amount well within the reach of the mainly Newar small businessmen, drivers, contractors,and skilled tradesmen(electricians,mechanics, etc.)-all wage earners with regularcash flow-who patronizedthe meat-menushops. These are men who often have some educationbut preferthe "traditional feeling" of the undecorated and utilitarian,but intimate, backstreetrestaurantswhere one can slip in and out without attractingmuch attention. One man described how he liked to meet his friends after work and before going home to the traditionallate evening meal preparedby his wife. When I pressed him on why he liked to go to these he explained, "Because you can get food there that you can't get at restaurants, home. I mean, both of these [meat and alcohol] are expensive and, well, if you have meat at home, you have to feed it to the whole family. But if you eat it here,

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CARNAL ECONOMIESIN KATHMANDU 25

it's just one person. It's cheaperthan eating meat at home!"61 Describing how he chewed cloves and cardamompods on his way home hoping his wife would not notice the smell of garlic and alcohol on his breath,this man conceded the transgressive implicationsof his new male consumerpleasureseven while claiming his privileges as a wage earnerin the male-dominatedlabormarket.Consumingmeat and alcohol in the gender-segregated allows men to live confines of a restaurant out new forms of commensalityand literally embody their own genderedmarket power and privilege. Conclusion: Consumer Transgression Recent transformationsin the economic cultures of food and sex in Kathmanduexhibit several important parallels. First, the emergence of both and prostitutionrepresentthe public commodificationof transactions restaurants (whetherin food or sex) that, until only a generationago, had been almost excluand prostitutionhave been so closely sively privateand domestic. Thatrestaurants linked in the city underlinesthe fact that both industrieshave emerged only as the caste-basedtransactional logic thatonce regulatedboth food and sex has been pushed increasinglyinto the limited confines of a new "private" sphere. As commodities, both food and sex can now be "publiclytraded."Second, both the rise of prostitutionand of public eating are manifestationsof the new moral economy of the market,an economy of "free trade"that thrives within the anonymity of The commodityform creates a space of anonymity-the commoditytransactions. of the public privacy bourgeois public sphere-in which an earlier form of soto the market-based ciality gives way sociality of class.62These convergences,or parallels, in the rise of prostitutionand public eating in Kathmandupoint again to the intimate ties between social transactionsin food and sex, ties that remain strongeven as these transactionsmove out of the domestic economy of privateinrelationsinto the public economy of impersonalcommercialrelations. terpersonal to the impersonalin the transactionof culiThis move from the interpersonal nary and sexual services has importantimplications for gender relations both in the home and in public spaces. The increased commercial availability of (typically male) bodily gratifications(whether of food or sex) graphicallyillustrates the emergenceof a largelymale-dominated, middle-classcash and wage economy. In this new economy, not only is paid women's labor often sexually stigmatized, but also women's "services"to men (both culinary and sexual) become matters of public markettransaction.Male appetites that were once almost exclusively serviced-but also regulated, manipulated,and mediated-by women within a domestic political and moral economy become increasinglytransactedwithin the moral economy of the cash and commodity market and its modern politics of Women are by no means excluded from the consumerpublic sphere:an gender.63 importantpart of local middle-class culturerevolves aroundwomen's consumption, especially in realms markedas "fashion"(Liechty 2003). However,because

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26 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

their legitimate participationis as consumers, not producers(or wage earners), women's marketparticipationis typically dependent on men. Furthermore, key the consumer of sex-are of domain-the food and parts public consumption markedoff as dangerous,transgressive,and availableonly to men. The logic (and power) of transgressioninforms and impels male consumer acts in several ways. First, the transgressionsinvolved in the recent rise in consumption of meat, alcohol, and sexual services by men in Kathmanduhelp to class culture. The solidify and confirm male authorityin the new market-driven very acts that only a generationago might have resulted in outcasting (because of transgressingthe boundariesof caste endogamy, commensality,and diet) now help to constructa new sociality of both gender and class relations. As we have seen, the new public servicing of male carnal appetites has importantimplicaleisure tions for the re-creationof patriarchy.64 When they become "freelytraded" commodities, food and sex help to marginalize women in the new commodity culture by eroding their control over these transactionsin the domestic sphere, where a very different moral economy pertains. When they enter the marketdriven public leisure sphere, the commercial purveyanceof culinary and sexual services (andthe transgressions entailed in theirconsumption)help to consolidate male authority. Restaurants (and to a certainextent prostitution)help to producea new class-based (male-privileging)social practice-what I have referredto as the commensalityof class. Commercialtransactionsin both food and sex (e.g., when is associatedwith businessnegotiations)areamongthe pillarsof a new prostitution form of sociality that lays out new class strataeven while cutting across old caste divisions. and Here, ultimately,may be the most fundamentallink between restaurants prostitution.When food and sex are commodified-when transactionsin food and sex arere-createdas commoditytransactions-cultural domainsand practices that had once been infused with the moral logic of caste take on the value-free The parallel social logics and practices of caste "freedoms"of the "free market." and that exchanges of food and sex are clearly show endogamy commensality linked in the sociality of caste. As commodities, food and sex are also united but in new ways. When institutionalizedas commodity transactions,exchanges of food and sex become homologous within the leveling calculus of exchange value. Meat, alcohol, and sex emerge as homologous male consumer pleasures. When as objects of (male leisure) consumption-united underthe sign consubstantiated of the commodity-food and sex are "naturally" coinstitutionalizedin the modem of restaurant. the space The threeperhapsmost highly marked(dangerous)transactional acts or substances in caste society (meat, alcohol, and coitus) are precisely those that have emergedas among the principlecommoditiesof a new male class sociability.Food and sex, when united in the commodity form, seem to harness the dangers of a them into the very stuff of market-based caste-informedsocial logic, transforming social relations.Restaurants andprostitution become the privilegedsites for a new

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CARNAL ECONOMIESIN KATHMANDU 27

exclusive (andexclusionary)male class sociality. In this way the marketstructures both class and gender hierarchies.As modern male consumables, alcohol, meat, and sex retaintheirtraditionaldangers,but in the context of the capitalistmarketplace, the same transgressionsthat would have once been antisocial (with serious social consequences such as outcasting) now emerge as constitutiveelements of a new form of sociability. In short, the meaning of consumption changes in the from caste to class society. transformation To the extent that two transactivelogics persist in Kathmandu, consumption producestwo differentkinds of sociality.An earliercaste-basedtransactional logic has been increasinglyrelegatedto a limited privatedomestic spherewhile market and class-basedritualsof purityand dangerincreasinglydominatethe new public service sphere,in effect producingtwo social bodies. On the one hand,restaurants the new commensality of class, whereas the middle-class fixation on prostitution as a class discourse (with prostitutionalways socially above or below) shows how both food and sexual prohibitions are shifting from a caste paradigmand into a class paradigm.In the new middle-class public sphere, the body's margins are those of a new class social body. However, there still remains a caste social body, to the extent that domestic spaces and women's domestic roles retain the rituallogics of caste exchange normsand caste endogamy is still the ideal and the norm in marriages.People's physical bodies remain the same, but as they move from privateto public space, the vulnerabilitiesof their body margins-and the meanings of their transgressions-are transformedas they move from one social body to another,each with its own moral and materialeconomy.
Notes Acknowledgments. My sincere thanks to Yasuko Fujikura,Greg Grieve, Heather ManHindman,LauraHostetler,Genevieve Lakier,PratyoushOnta, Lazima Onta-Bhatta, jushree Thapa, and Amy Trubek for helpful comments on various drafts of this article. Thanks also to discussants and questioners at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Universityof Iowa, the Universityof Chicago, Duke University,PrincetonUniversity,and elsewhere where versions of this article were presented.Researchfor this article was conductedbetween 1988 and 1991 andin follow-up visits in 1996 and2001 with the help of the Departmentsof Anthropologyand South Asia Regional Studies of the University of PennDoctoralDissertationResearchAbroadFellowship, and faculty sylvania,a Fulbright-Hays andthe Universityof Illinois travelgrantsfromthe Universityof Californiaat SantaBarbara at Chicago. Thanks also to the International Institutefor Asian Studies (IIAS) in Leiden, the Netherlands,for a postdoctoralresearchand write-upgrant.Special thanksto Som Raj Ghimire, Krishna and Ganu Pradhan,Ang Tshering Sherpa, and SurendraBajracharya, coworkersduringthe researchphase of this project. 1. When a small, ultra-leftistpartybroke away from Nepal's parliamentary system in 1996 anddeclareda Maoist "People'sWar"on the state of Nepal, few paid much attention. Yet eight years later,the Maoists control (by some estimates)up to two thirdsof Nepal and have broughtthe governmentin Kathmanduto a point of crisis (Thapa 2003; Thapa and Sijapati2003). Maoismin Nepal has no immediatebearingon this article,althoughit is worth noting that the extreme poverty and exploitation in ruralNepal that fuels the insurgency

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28 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY middle class (Liechty 2003). These also played a role in the historicrise of the Kathmandu conditions have also helped generate the influx of destitute women into Kathmanduthat make up the "lower"end of Kathmandu's sex-workerspectrum. 2. For discussions of similarphenomenain India, see Appadurai1991 andAppadurai and Breckenridge1991. 3. This article is an extension of a larger project that explores the intersection of consumerculture,mass-mediaconsumption,and class formation(Liechty 2003). Whereas my book focused mainly on the constitutionof middle-class practice in Kathmandu,this of local caste culturein the face of capitalist articlelooks moredirectlyat the transformation commercialization. 4. No one is predictingthe demise of caste in South Asia, althoughit is clear that the meaning of caste and the natureof caste society are constantly evolving (Fuller 1996), as they no doubt always have. The story of caste and class in South Asia is one of historical not teleological supercession. encounterand mutualtransformation 5. I deal more with the historyof public eating and sex work below, andin more detail elsewhere (Liechty 2001a). are enough to have led some 6. The associationsbetween meat eating and patriarchy to advocatea "Feminist-Vegetarian CriticalTheory"(C. Adams 1990)! 7. Van Gennep defines exchanges of food and sex as "equivalent" to the extent that both are"ritesof incorporation," wherebypeople aredrawntogetherin ritualbondsof social solidarity(1960:33-34). 8. This culturalfixationon the body and its marginsis by no meanslimitedto "simple" or non-Westernsocieties. Alan Hyde's recent study of the body in official Americanlegal discourse (1997) is an extraordinary illustrationof how the body, and perceived threats to body margins, is used as a metaphorfor the nation and the perils posed by illegal immigration,drug trafficking,disease, and degradation.Hyde shows how the language of the body and its vulnerabilitiesnaturalizesideologies of the state. See especially Part 3, chapters 12-15. 9. See Farquhar2002, Fiddes 1991, Counihan 1999, Counihan and Kaplan 1998, Probyn2000, and Fieldhouse 1986. 10. See, for example,JosephAlter's fascinatingstudy (2000) of the role of sexual and dietaryregulationin the biomoralpolitics of Gandhiannationalism. 11. SudhirKakararguesthat "in the Indianconsciousness, the symbolism of food is moreclosely or manifestlyconnectedto sexualitythanit is in the West.The wordsfor eating and sexual enjoyment..,.have the same root, bhuj, in Sanskrit,and sexual intercourseis often spoken about as the mutualfeeding of male and female" (1990:91). 12. Thereis a large literature on the transactional basis of caste society in South Asia, much of which focuses on inter- and intracasteexchanges of food and marriagepartners. In particular, see Daniel 1984; Marriott1968, 1976a, 1976b; and McGilvray 1982. 13. See Khare(1976) on the social andideological intricaciesof Hindufoodways and Hofer (1979) on the history of religious regulationsconcerningsexual relationsin Nepal. 14. The cultural empowermentthat derives from the movement across dangerous borders is a theme that runs throughoutthe history of anthropology.Exemplary works include van Gennep's famous study of ritual passages (1960), Joseph Campbell's "hero's journey" (1949), Victor Turner'sstudies of liminality (1967), Mary Douglas's work on "purity and danger" (1966), Jean Comaroff's work on the body and ritual in southern Africa (1985), MaryHelms's writingson distance and empowerment(1988), and no doubt, many others. 15. Gilfoyle notes that "Few subjects have moved so dramaticallyfrom the margins to the center of historicalstudy as prostitution" (1999:140).

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CARNAL IN KATHMANDU29 ECONOMIES 16. From Argentinato Kenya to France, modern prostitutionhas allied with other such as dance halls, amusementparks, emergentforms of commercializedentertainment, cinemas, cabarets, and most commonly, bars, cafes, and restaurants(Gilfoyle 1999). For example, in his study of prostitutionin New York City, Gilfoyle notes that from the beginning, brothels were almost always associated with "taverns,inns, or saloons" in Solomon(1992:163; cf. Peiss 1986). A mid-19th centuryFrenchlithograph(reproduced Godeau [1996:118]) depicts two elaborately dressed Parisian prostitutes standing on a sidewalk beneath a sign reading "Restaurantet Cabinets,"while several men cast lascivious sideways glances. Spang 2000 includes similar images associating restaurants with prostitution.The image conveys a taken-for-granted association between restaurants and prostitution,with the restaurantserving as a meeting point for prostitutes and their clients. 17. See for example, "Dharanko Ve{sa}y{am}vriti Kasar{im} Tikeko Cha?" [How is prostitutionin Dharan?],SuruchiSaptahikAsar 1, 2048 v.s. (June 15, 1991), and "Kathmanduko Ve{sa}y{am}vritima Sambhr{am}nta Pariv{am}r Pani Samlagna: P{am}nc elite families are Haj{am}r Sammak{am} Ve{sa}y{am} Sa{du}akm{am}" [Kathmandu's also involved in prostitution:On the streets, prostitutesfor up to Rs. 5000], Prishtabhumi SaptahikAshad 6, 2048 v.s. (June 20, 1991). 18. The illegality of prostitutionin Nepal is de facto if not de jure. Although sex workersare routinelyharassedand arrested,scholarsdebate whetherthere are actuallyany existing legal statutesoutlawingprostitution(Y. Fujikura,personalcommunication,March 2002). For more on public debates on the regulationof prostitutionin Nepal, see Fujikura 2003. 19. To protectthem and their contacts, in this article I do not cite key informantsby name but by profession. 20. For variousperspectiveson women's sex work amongBadi castes in Nepal's Tarai region, see Cox 1992, Cameron 1998, and Pike 1999. 21. See Liechty 2001a for more details including a discussion of hill poverty, labor migration,and the "supplyside" of prostitutionin Kathmandu. 22. "YaunJivan:Kathmandum{am}Ve{sa}y{am}vriti" [Sexual life: Prostitutionin Kathmandu], SaptahikPunarjagaran(Kathmandu) Asoj 15, 2048 v.s. (Oct. 1, 1991). 23. New Road is the city's centralcommercialdistrictand is discussed in more detail below. 24. The lower figure appearedin an articleon prostitutionin SaptahikPunarjagaran (Kathmandu) Asoj 15, 2048 v.s. (Oct. 1, 1991). The higherfigureis the estimate of a Nepali doctor working with prostitutesin a clinic for sexually transmitted diseases in Kathmandu (cf. Upreti 1992). For a general discussion of factors leading to a growing supply of, and demandfor, commercialsexual services, see Liechty 2001a. 25. "YaunJivan:Kathmandum{am}Ve{sa}y{am}vriti" [Sexual life: Prostitutionin Kathmandu], SaptahikPunarjagaran(Kathmandu) Asoj 15, 2048 v.s. (Oct. 1, 1991). 26. This is not to say thatlocal Nepali men do not also frequentNew Roadprostitutes. Rather,it is the transientIndian population(along with Indian demand) that helps create the liminal urbanspace within which prostitutioncan flourish. 27. Although it is impossible to say why tourists from outside South Asia are less likely to use prostitutesthanareIndiantourists,one reasonmay be thatthe youthfulWestern and East Asian "adventuretourists"who make up the bulk of Kathmandu'snon-South Asian arrivalsoften travel as couples. More importantly,sex is not part of the "imagined place" thatthese trekkerscome to Nepal hoping to find (Liechty 1996a). In the FirstWorld touristic imagination, Kathmanduis the place for Eastern mysticism and exotic culture, throwbackevocations of Hippie culture,and mountainadventure(or at least planning for,

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30

CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

and recoveringfrom, such adventures).For these tourists "doing"Nepal means "roughing is knownfor its garbage,hustlers, it."On the international youthtourismcircuit,Kathmandu intestinal parasites,dope dealers, black marketers,and labyrinthinebureaucracy-not for its sex trade. 28. This is not to say thatthereare no contactsbetween FirstWorldtouristsand local prostitutes.Some hotel owners reportedthat occasionally a foreign tourist, after getting drunk or high, would come and inquire about prostitutes. One hotel manager reported that now and then a small group of tourists would ask whether prostitutesare available before checking in. Finally, one social workerspoke with me about local boys who report occasionally working as male prostitutesfor Westernclients, althoughthis informantfelt that the occurrence was infrequent.Dixit (1990:26-30, n.d.:11) reports similar findings regardinglimited male prostitutionwith touristsin Kathmandu. 29. Sometimes, however,exotic and erotic desires do combine in romanticintimacies between Nepalis (especially,it seems, Sherpasandotherswith the romanticauraof Tibetan culture)andWesterners(V. Adams 1996:59-60, 103; Ortner1999; Spano 2001). 30. See Note 20. 31. Citing researchby GertrudeKoch, Linda Williams notes that early pornographic films in Europe"wereassociatedmainlywith brothels,theirmajorfunctionbeing economic: to arouse the viewer to the point of purchasingthe services of the women of the house" (1989:74). 32. This discussion is in many ways an illustration of Arjun Appadurai and Carol Breckenridge's commentaries on the 1984 Mira Nair documentary film India Cabaret (Appadurai1991; Appaduraiand Breckenridge 1991). They discuss how scenes from Hindi cinema provide scripts that turn denizens of suburban Bombay cabarets (dancers and patrons) into charactersin their own media-drivenself-fabrications.Simishow videos and the cultureof prostitutionin Kathmandu larly, ties between pornographic how "lives are now inextricably linked with [mass-media] representations" (Appadurai 1991:208). 33. Elsewhere (Liechty 2003), I explore in much greaterdetail the complex interplay andgenderin the culturalproductionof middlebetween discoursesof fashion,prostitution, class life in Kathmandu. It is clear that"theprostitute" plays a leading role in middle-class imaginations-perhaps especially women's-because the extremesof consumerdesire and sexual objectificationarecollapsed in this figure,makingit both a sourceof intense anxiety and a resourcefor social critique(Liechty 1996b, 2001b). 34. Italics in quoted materialdesignate English words used in statementsotherwise made in Nepali and presentedhere in translation. 35. Darjeeling is the former British colonial "hill station"or resort area located in India to the east of Nepal. Many people from the Darjeeling region are ethnically Nepali and speak Nepali as a local language. 36. Possible exceptions to the stigma attachedto middle-classwomen's laborinclude such thingsas workingin beautyparlorsor in NGOs workingon women's issues. These tend to be gender-segregated work environmentswhere wage transactionsare strictlybetween women. 37. In her recent articleon schoolgirls in Meiji Japan,Miyako Inoue (2003) describes similarpatternsof sexual fetishization.Inoue points out thatmodernschoolgirls were "neither producersnor reproducers" but rather"publicbeings" and as such, "a sign of menace andtransgression needingto be tamedbecauseherpublicnesspotentiallyblursthe boundary thatdistinguishes'modem women' fromprostitutes" (2003:159-160). The idea of the "public woman"seems to carry an almost universalerotic charge within bourgeois patriarchy, as in the 19th-century Frencheuphemismfor prostitute, filles publique (Clark 1985:106).

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CARNAL ECONOMIES IN KATHMANDU31 38. Gilfoyle provides a fascinating comparativeperspective when he notes that in early 20th-centuryNew York City it was not uncommon for prostitutesto pose as school girls, wearing "juvenileattire"and carryingbook satchels (1992:285). 39. That most of this "school girl" video pornographyis from the United States, Europe,or Japansuggests thatthis erotic fantasy is by no means unique to Kathmandu. 40. Elsewhere,I have discussed the demographicsof sex workersand clients in Kathmandu(Liechty 2001a). 41. In the early 1990s, most clients were paying between 300 and 1,000 Nepali Rs. (aboutUS$6 to $20) per encounter.These costs appearlow by Westernstandards,but in a society where a middle-classjob as a civil servantpays only about 4,000 Rs. per month, these are sizable sums. 42. Hypergamousunions are those in which a woman of lower caste rank legally marries a man of higher caste rank. Typically, however, the gap between the two caste groupsis relatively small. 43. According to the Muluki Ain, "The Brahmin, who knowingly accepts bhat [cooked rice] or water"from someone of a lower caste "will be degradedto the offerer's status.... And he will be prosecuted,in addition,if he conceals his defilementand transfers it to his fellow caste members by continuing to live in commensality with them" (Hofer 1979:59). 44. See also Mennell 1985, and Habermas1989. 45. There is now a growing literatureon the colonial constructionof Indian prostitution. See Banerjee 1989, I. Chatterjee1990, R. Chatterjee1993, D'Cunha 1991, Ghosh 1994, Levine 1994, and Pivar 1981. See Dell 1997 and Sleightholme and Sinha 1997, for work on the contemporary period. 46. Throughoutthe colonial era, Nepal remained(at times nominally)independentof Britishrule.In partto protectelite privilege,Nepal's rulingRanafamily-a line of autocratic hereditaryPrime Ministers-followed increasinglyisolationist, xenophobic state policies until 1951 when a popularrevolutiondeposed them in favorof a democraticconstitutional monarchy.For a culturalhistory of Nepal's relations to foreigners and foreign goods, see Liechty 1997. 47. For example, Nepali Brahmanshave traditionally been allowed to eat some kinds of meat (e.g., goat and chicken), whereas for IndianBrahmanseating any meat is a caste violation.For this reason,"pure-vegetarian" restaurants-run by, andexpressly cateringto, Brahmans-although ubiquitousin India, are rare in Kathmandu.Those that do exist are treatedmore like other ethnic or regional restaurants (in this case, typically South Indian) than as having to do with caste imperativesas such. 48. As with Spang, Conlon also contrastspremodernand modern South Asian public eating establishments:from spartanrest houses serving religious or business travelers (1995:94) to modern restaurantsserving resident expatriatesand Indian middle- and upper-classurbanites.Mainly "a social resortfor Bombay's male population,"some early restaurantsalso courted a female and family clientele by providing "family cabins" or glass-partitionedspaces "wheregenteel, respectablegroups could dine without being exposed to public gaze,"althoughotherscould use the same spaces "forliaisons thatrequired discretion"(1995:100-101). 49. Because of its strategiclocation between "Red China"and Soviet-leaning independentIndia,following WorldWarII the United States quickly figuredNepal into its Cold Warplans via projects of economic development.In 1947, the United States became only the second nationto establishdiplomaticrelationswith Nepal (following Britainin the early 19th century),and in 1951, the United States was the first foreign countryto establish an official aid mission in Nepal (Wood 1987:47).

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32 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 50. For accounts of Americans in Nepal during the 1950s and 1960s, see Hugh B. Wood's memoir (1987) and especially HeatherHindman'swork (2003) on expatriate lifestyles and the culturalpolitics of foreignness in Kathmandu. 51. The U.S. Embassy's contingent of Marine Guards played its own role in the Some of the city's first establishmentof new forms of leisure andrecreationin Kathmandu. discos and bars were startedby Nepali friends of marines to provide them with places to "hangout" (and spend money) while off duty. 52. In Europeanhistory, the rise of restaurants(along with literature,theater,and other commodified leisure forms) is seen as an importantpart of the transition from aristocraticto bourgeois control of the public sphere (Habermas 1989:31 ff.). Although acknowledgingthe fundamentaldifferences between the moral economies of early modin Kathmanduover the past em Europe and modem Nepal, the emergence of restaurants decades illustratessimilar developmentsin the rise of a new class-based bourgeois public sphere. 53. For a discussion of all of these factors, see Liechty 2001a, 2003. new food service economy 54. One large and fast-growingsegment of Kathmandu's thatI do not addressin this articleis food catering.Cateringservices, althoughnottechnically tied to publiceating, arenonethelesscaughtup in manyof the same shifts in ritualand status Kathmandu's concernsassociatedwith restaurant-going. cateringindustrythrivesby filling the need to serve food to guests at weddingsandotherlife-cycle rituals,eventsthatrepresent perhapsthe most powerful remainingcaste-based imperativesin the city's social life. Yet as these life-cycle events are drawninto the orbit of claiming and negotiatingclass status, a new consumer-basedlogic of status display propels catering services (in which earlier and transactionare ignored) into the very heart caste-basedconcerns for food preparation of "traditional" caste rituals.Ironically,many people, who would never dreamof allowing a crew of low-caste cooks into their own kitchens to preparea wedding feast, do not think twice about who is preparingor serving the food for their daughter'scatered wedding banquet. 55. See Khare 1976; Khareand Rao 1986; Marriott1968, 1976a, 1976b; and Daniel 1984. 56. See Note 46. 57. Hofer (1979:53) quotes a passagefromthe SanskritGrhastharatnakara according to which: "Food is the filth of men ... the evil deeds of men resortto their food. Whoever eats the food of anotherpartakesof that man's sin." 58. See Zimmermann(1987:180 ff.) for a discussion of the moral logic of vegetarianism in Hinduphilosophy. 59. One common perceptionwas that drinkingliquor requireseating meat and vice versa. Alcohol helps to digest meat, and a person who does not eat meat while drinking alcohol gets drunk easily. Even worse, because alcohol is thought to p{am}knu (cook) meat, failure to eat meat along with alcohol puts the drinkerat risk of having their own "meat"(stomach, liver, etc.) "cooked" instead. People I spoke with said that today no one associates these propertiesof meat and alcohol with any kind of broaderSouth Asian or "cooling"(cf. Daniel 1984, Zimmermann humoralunderstandings of foods as "heating" is a sense that what gives pleasure or still retain an aura There of 1987), yet danger. they enjoyment(maj{am}) also brings danger.One man likened alcohol to the kickann{im} of Nepali folklore (the beautiful female ghosts or spirits who seduce, feed off of, and kill men throughcopulation;Hedrickand Hedrick 1972:80; cf. Kakar 1982:27-28). Alcohol, too, is thought to provide pleasurewhile actually consuming the consumer;the common association of liver disease with alcohol consumptiononly confirms such a view. By this logic, eating meat is almost an antidoteto drinkingalcohol.

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IN KATHMANDU33 CARNAL ECONOMIES 60. See Fiddes 1991:145-146, for a discussion of the common ethnographicassociation of meat consumptionand maleness. Aroundthe world, "meatis almost ubiquitously put to use as a medium throughwhich men express their 'natural'control, of women as well as of animals"(Fiddes 1991:146). 61. In her study of caste, class, and gender in South India, KarinKapadiadescribes similarsplits in financialstatusbetweenmarried couples andsuggests thatthe "considerable economic inequality"between wage-earninghusbandsand non-wage earningwives may actually constituteclass divisions within families (1995:251). 62. Habermasdiscusses how the emerging institutions of the Europeanbourgeois public sphere-salons, coffee houses, and literarysocieties-were open to anyone "in so were private, andeducated." faras they werepropertied Thus,these new "publicinstitutions" or class segregated,to the extentthatthey shut out the masses thatwere "so pauperizedthat (1989:37-38). they could not even pay for literature" 63. Ironically,a growing numberof women--often poor widows or single mothersuse the new economy to transactin sexual commodities as a way of survivingin an increasingly cash-drivenworld. 64. Habermas's(1989) portrayalof the rise of the bourgeoispublic sphere in Europe notes the exclusion of lower classes from the new "publicinstitutions"(notably including establishments)but does not recognize things like coffee houses and other restaurant-like the parallel exclusion of women. This double exclusion (in terms of both class and gender) highlights the fact that the emerging 18th- and 19th-centuryEuropeanpublic sphere representsnot simply the persistence of patriarchybut the creation of a new ideology of exclusion aimed at women (Eley 1994; Hansen 1993; Landes 1988; cf. Chatterjee1989). In Kathmandu,the culturaldynamics are different,but the results-the "classing"and gendering of bourgeois sociability-are similar.

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ABSTRACT In the culturaldynamicssurroundingthe commodification of culirestaurants and sexual services the and prosthrough emergenceof modern nary titution in Kathmandu,Nepal, the meanings surroundingcommensalityand endogamy change dramaticallyas transactions in food and sex are displacedfrom theprivate, domestic realmof maritaland caste relationsinto thepublic cultureof a new middle-class consumersociety. Thepublic "servicing"of largely male appetitesforfood and sex is producingnewpatternsof gender relationsand domestic economies while also contributingto the cultural constructionof new public and
private spheres. [Nepal, class, gender, commodification, food, prostitution]

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