WashU team studies impact of Nepal’s quake on local languages

NSF-supported researchers were among the first U.S. scientific teams on the scene after the quake. Photo: Andre Barbosa, OSU

NSF-funded mission assesses ‘invisible’ damage to culture and communities from the dramatic 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal and left behind a landscape littered with crumbled homes, buildings and roads.

While infrastructure can be rebuilt, the disaster may have a more lasting impact on the nation’s culture, suggests an interdisciplinary team studying the aftermath as part of a rapid response grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“We are witnessing how, and to what ends, people are making choices about rebuilding, and we are also learning very important lessons about the different ways that health and wellbeing — including mental health issues — are articulated in the wake of such an event,” said project researcher Geoff Childs, associate professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

The research team is collaborating with local researchers in three mountain districts in central Nepal to see how people from these areas understood the earthquakes; how they’re rebuilding; and how they relate to the lingering threat of extreme environmental disasters.

The project has a special focus on documenting the quake’s impact on local languages and minority cultural practices, some of which were already in danger of disappearing as the modern world makes inroads into isolated mountain communities.

Read the full story in the SOURCE:  Anthropologists, linguists uncover emotional toll of Nepal quake