Rupak Shrestha is our new assistant professor in International Studies.


Welcome new assistant professor, Rupak Shrestha

January 04, 2024

The School for International Studies extends a warm welcome to our newest faculty member and assistant professor, Rupak Shrestha. As a political geographer with Newa roots, Shrestha's expertise centers on South Asia, specifically addressing issues such as sovereignty, territory, indigeneity, power and violence, borders, and placemaking for those with South Asian origins.

Shrestha traces his introduction to political geography back to his days of growing up in Nepal during the intensification of the Maoist armed insurgency. He recalls reading Palpasa Café, a fictional work by Narayan Wagle set during the civil war. Around the same time, he frequented exhibitions about the everyday aftermaths of war. Literature and art provided him with clarity on how war and state politics could impact communities at multiple scales. 

“The narratives in these materials resonated with my experiences when I would go to my villages and hear from community members on the ways in which they dealt with fear, anxieties, loss, and memory,” Shrestha recalls.  

He was introduced to the fascinating field of political geography during his undergraduate years at St. Cloud State University by Professor Gareth John. While working with Professor Jennifer Fluri at the University of Colorado Boulder, the rich and critical work of feminist political geographers, who view politics at multiple scales, affects, and emotions, resonated particularly with Shrestha. 

“This self-reflexive and ethnographic way of making sense of relations resonated with how I understood the world around me while I was growing up,” he says, “and these frameworks guide me to this day on how I situate my research and writing.” 

As a Newa Indigenous person and scholar, Shrestha finds himself drawn towards the power of place and how different actors redefine "place" through means such as state sanctions on Indigenous place-based histories and literatures, hegemonic denial of Indigenous placemaking, collective Indigenous ways to reclaim place and sovereignty, and unwriting borders. 

Shrestha's research is grounded in rich conversations with research participants about their everyday lives. His earlier work delved into caste-based spatial regimes and the challenges of place-making for laborers who would come from rural Nepal to work in brick factories on the outskirts of the capital city. For his dissertation, Shrestha worked with Tibetan refugees and Himalayan Indigenous peoples, exploring attachments to place, transnational mobility, state surveillance, and communal ways of creating and reclaiming place.

Shrestha’s desire to understand questions of global indigeneity, securitization, coloniality, placemaking, and belonging ultimately brought him to the School for International Studies at SFU, known for its powerful, interdisciplinary environment and exemplary faculty who do critical and contemporary work globally and in Canada.  

Being jointly appointed with the Global Asia program, Shrestha says he looks forward to working with students and colleagues to delve into exciting interdisciplinary work in thinking about Asia in relational, transnational, and nonhegemonic ways.

For one of his future research projects, Shrestha turns his attention to the Lower Mainland. He hopes to partner with local and regional organizations to develop an intersectional community-focused research project with a focus on understanding solidarities and spatial injustices for new settlers, particularly those coming from the Himalayan region to Vancouver. 

In Spring 2024, Shrestha will be teaching Indigenous Futures (IS 319), a course which explores how Indigenous peoples conceptualize their future by re-telling community histories of solidarity against state/police violence, navigating climate justice, and imagining new forms of belonging.

Read his faculty profile here.