In the last 30 years women have been making significant inroads into Nepal's public sphere, troubling long-held normative assumptions about women's place in modern Nepal. In this article I examine the discursive strategies that working-class Nepali women employ to justify and legitimate their presence in Nepal's urban public spaces and simultaneously claim an identity as a modern Nepali woman. Drawing on an ethnographic case study of one group of publicly visible women, female trekking guides, I provide a close analysis of how spatial language is leveraged by both state actors and informants to articulate multiple, sometimes conflicting, messages about Nepali women's “place” in contemporary society. In particular, I focus on the use of spatial metaphors, showing how informants use terms such as inside, outside, forward, and backward to locate themselves within narratives of modernity, development, and national progress. I conclude by showing that unlike women in other examples from the global South, who have framed their emergent presence in the public sphere as an extension of a traditionally feminine and domestic role, informants in the present case study appropriate a masculine language of overt publicness and mobility to justify their visibility. In so doing, informants author themselves as agents of modernity rather than objects of the state's development efforts.
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