Chitwan’s soil carries materially the memory of all the past and present projects of placemaking that have occurred there. Human activities have swapped one habitat for another and one way of living for another, marking the land in the process with stories of settling and uprooting, domesticating and wilding, founding and ruining. Soil, like all infrastructures, does the invisible work of ensuring a reliable and common base for relationships to flourish across the unpredictable forces of time and space. Today, other infrastructures rise above the soil turning Chitwan away from its local environment and into yet another dissociated node of extraction in the global movements of labour and capital.
Even as our collective ecological future remains captive to the accelerating timeline of progress, The Skin of Chitwan asserts other ways of being in time and belonging to place. Chitwan, after all, remains a frontier zone, unstable as a place, whose pasts are not quite past. Is this not an opportunity to articulate possibilities for living and sensing that demand wholly different relations with the land and the environment? If this is contemporary history, it asks that we widen the horizon of the contemporary to a deeper and slower temporality that comes with caring for the soil. It is a history presented not for interpretation but for attunement—for sensing, not knowing. Working through various modes of dwelling, occupying, and making territory in Chitwan, this work proposes a shift in the frames of reference for material experience, collective memory, and ordinary perceptions of time and space. It seeks other futures through the regeneration of sensibilities and orientations of a reciprocal, place-based existence.