A 'Rose' in Nepal: U.S. Technical Cooperation in "Shangri La"

In January of 1952, Paul W. Rose, Chief Agriculturist and first director of United States Operation Mission (USOM, today known as USAID) arrived in Nepal. Accompanied by a six-man team, Rose spent his first six weeks in the country travelling throughout the Pokhara and Kathmandu Valleys studying village life. On March 17th of the same year, Rose sent a letter to Chester Bowles, then ambassador to Nepal and India, with the subject line “Photographs and Negatives.” In it, he enclosed a series of black and white photographs presumably intended as “flashcards” to familiarize Bowles with Nepal’s conditions and prime him for Rose's vision of a full-fledged Point IV program.

Drawing from the Chester Bowles Papers of Yale Manuscripts and Archives where these photographs are held, this exhibit will consider these photographs alongside an array of Paul W. Rose’s correspondences and official documents. It will attempt to shed light on the nature of his technical assistance project as Nepal took its first steps out of isolation as a modern nation state. In doing so, the exhibit will allude to the form of the archive even as it distills its contents; the ultimate goal being to produce an experience of as many questions as answers.

As a historical collection, this exhibit might be read as a baseline from which western development efforts in Nepal since 1952 can be gauged. Perhaps more usefully, however, it might be read as insight into a subjective process of conceptualizing development within an "untouched" and "underdeveloped" nation. What, we might ask, do these documents capture, and what—from the archive and beyond—do they miss?

by Katy Osborn, Yale University


Katy Osborn