Tag Archives: politics

Book: The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience by Christophe Jaffrelot

Jaffrelot, C., 2014, The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience, Hurst Publishers.

Dr Christophe Jaffrelot is Research Director at CNRS and teaches South Asian politics and history at Sciences Po (Paris).

“Pakistan was born as the creation of elite Urdu-speaking Muslims who sought to govern a state that would maintain their dominance. After rallying non-Urdu speaking leaders around him, Jinnah imposed a unitary definition of the new nation state that obliterated linguistic diversity. This centralisation — ‘justified’ by the Indian threat — fostered centrifugal forces that resulted in Bengali secessionism in 1971 and Baloch, as well as Mohajir, separatisms today. Continue reading Book: The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience by Christophe Jaffrelot

Workshop: Pilgrims and Politics in Pakistan, 21 May 2013 (Paris)

This Workshop, whose proceedings will be conducted in English, aims to focus attention on the adaptation of the institutions and languages of Sufism to the political economy of different regions of Pakistan and to explore the potential of Sufism to negotiate the impact of radical Islam on the Pakistani state. Bringing together established and early career scholars working across a range of disciplines, including history, anthropology and political science, the Workshop is intended to deepen our understanding of Sufism in Pakistan not as a ‘degraded’ form of Islamic mysticism but as a living tradition ever responsive to wider social and political changes at the local and national levels.  By doing so, it hopes to shed light on the resilience of Sufism to survive the challenge of more ‘modern’ forms of reformist Islam sweeping Pakistan as well as Sufism’s capacity to withstand the historical pressures brought to bear on it by the state’s own ‘modernist’ agenda. Continue reading Workshop: Pilgrims and Politics in Pakistan, 21 May 2013 (Paris)

Workshop: Discussing recent work on Islam in South Asia

The research team “History and Sufism in the Indus Valley“, coordinated by Michel Boivin at the Center for South Asian Studies (CEIAS) in Paris, organizes a workshop to discuss on recent publications focusing on Islam in India and Pakistan. It will be held at the CEIAS on 24 January 2013 between 9 am and 1 .30 pm. For more information about this event, you can contact Delphine Ortis. Continue reading Workshop: Discussing recent work on Islam in South Asia

PhD thesis: Water, land and politics in Sindh, 1898-1969

Timothy Daniel Haines, ‘Building the Empire, Building the Nation: Water, land, and the politics of river-development in Sind, 1898-1969’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, Royal Holloway, University of London, 2011)

“Major attempts to control the natural environment characterized government ‘developmental’ activity in twentieth-century Sind.  This thesis argues that the construction of three barrage dams across the River Indus, along with a network of irrigation canals, enacted human control over nature as a political project.  The Raj and its successor state in Sind, Pakistan, thereby claimed legitimacy through their capacity to benefit humans by re-modelling the landscape.  These claims depended on an implied narrative of material progress, which irrigation development was expected to bring about, in a province considered technologically and socially backward.

In allocating land that was newly made available for cultivation, government officials found an unprecedented opportunity to also re-shape agrarian society.  As well as providing the means by which ‘ideal types’ of cultivator could be encouraged to proliferate, the development of Sind’s irrigation system was based on concepts of modernization that promoted increasing state intervention in agrarian life to render a ‘disordered’ society more easily governable.  This trend was constrained, however, by successive administrations’ need to balance the lure of radical modernization against the powerful claims on new land of local magnates.

The colonial belief in the agricultural, economic, and social benefits of large-scale irrigation projects was transplanted into the post-colonial state.  The construction of irrigation works, the colonization of land, and their political implications before and after Independence are therefore analyzed, in order to demonstrate how and why the logic of large infrastructure schemes remained consistent.  At the same time, differences in how successive administrations framed and enacted barrage projects are shown to have depended on contemporary circumstances.  In the process, the thesis sheds new light on the tensions between and within the central and provincial governments, demonstrating the contested nature of concepts of Imperial governance, nation-building, and material progress.”

Book: Journal issue on Afghanistan and Pakistan

Outre Terre. Revue Européenne de Géopolitique, n°24, Afghanistan/Pakistan = Viêt-Nam + Somalie?, Paris Académie Européenne de Géopolitique, 2010, 445 p.

A dense issue of a journal specialized in “geopolitics”, Outre Terre, is devoted to Afghanistan and Pakistan, a theme reminiscent of the concept of “Af-Pak” coined by the US army. The editor nonetheless asserts in the first paper on the Durand line that it would be more relevant to use “Pakaf” (p. 9). The reader should, however, not stop at the enigmatic equation which works as a title. The volume gives a valuable insight into the different provinces of Pakistan, and the different features – cultural and others – of each of them. With numerous coloured maps, esxcellent articles are side by side with other more superficial papers. But although the papers based on factual analysis are numerous, there are also salient studies by confirmed scholars like Mariam Abou Zahab or Ahmed Rashid. The balance between such studies and factual reports is nonetheless not always convincing.

Michel Boivin

 

More infos

http://outreterre.com


Book review: Islamic Sufism Unbound by Robert Rozehnal

Robert Rozehnal (2007) Islamic Sufism Unbound. Politics and Piety in Twenty First Century Pakistan, New York & Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

In this book, which is a revised version of a PhD defended at Duke University with Bruce Lawrence as supervisor, Robert Rozenhal addresses a central question: “What do contemporary Chishti Sabiris make of modernity?”. He explores how they “accommodate a life of spiritual discipline and religious piety to the myriad demands of their daily experiences” (p. 8). What the author calls “alternative modernity” is made up of “a range of practical strategies to integrate Sufism into the complex matrix of twenty-first century life” (p. 9). Contesting the essentializing and reductive lenses with which Western scholars interpret Sufi thought and practice, he stresses the need of a “more nuanced, multidimensional, interdisciplinary reading of Sufism’s multiple dimensions – its public and private manifestations – doctrines and practices, its piety, and its politics” (pp. 13-14). In his methodology, Robert Rozenhal combines manuscripts and fieldwork, to bridge a disciplinary divide.

After an introduction devoted to “Mapping the Chishti Sabri Sufi Order”, the book is divided into six chapters: 1. Sufism and the Politics of Muslim Identity, 2. Muslim, Mystic, and Modern: Three Twentieth-Century Sufi Masters, 3. Imagining Sufism: The Publication of Chishti Sabri Identity, 4. Teaching Sufism: Networks of Community and Discipleship, and 5. Experiencing Sufism: The Discipline of Ritual Practice. Robert Rozenhal’s approach is undoubtedly innovative but since he focuses on the Chishti Sabri tradition, he sometimes makes rapid formulations. For instance, he states that “Pakpattan now stands as the unrivalled center of a distinctly Pakistani Sufism” (p. 26). It is a pity that his contextualization of Sufism in Pakistan is more or less restricted to the Chishti Sabri tradition. Obviously, it does not include the southern province of Sindh, although it is known as “the land of the Sufis”. What about other major Sufi centres like Multan or Sehwan Sharif?

The most important contribution of this book is to show through a fine analysis how plural the discourses on Islam are in Pakistan today. The author makes it clear that “what is at stake here is the definition of Islamic orthodoxy” (p. 34). One can nevertheless regret that the author’s demonstration is more related to the state than to radical Islam. He argues that “the state’s control of Sufi tradition (…) has never been totalizing or hegemonic” (p. 227). He also states that “Sufi identity is capacious, broader, and deeper than the parochial constructions of religious nationalism” (p. 228). The “alternative modernity” embraced by Chishti Sabri Sufi order is framed within an “alternative geography” that delineates an expansive Indo-Muslim sacred landscape centered on Sufi shrines, an “alternative history” that links the disciples ultimately to Prophet Muhammad through a sacred genealogy (silsilah), an “alternative community” rooted in a teaching network, and an “alternative authority” thanks to the experiential knowledge acquired through the Sufi ritual practices.

Michel Boivin (CNRS-CEIAS-EHESS, Paris)

More publications

“A ‘Proving Ground’ for Spiritual Mastery: The Chishti Sabiri Musical Assembly,” The Muslim World Vol. 97, No.4: October 2007): 657-677.

“Faqir or Faker? The Public Battle Over Sufism in Contemporary Pakistan,” Religion 36 (2006): 29-47.

“Debating Orthodoxy, Contesting Tradition: Islam in Contemporary South Asia,” in Islam in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives, ed. R. Michael Feener (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2004): 103-131.

“From Sufi Practice to Scholarly Praxis: Reflections on the Lessons of Fieldwork for the Study of Islam,” in Items and Issues: Social Science Research Council. Vol.3, No. 1-2 (Spring 2002).

Book: Piety and Politics in the Early Indian Mosque

Finbarr Barry Flood (ed) (2008) Piety and Politics in the Early Indian Mosque. New Delhi, Oxford University Press.

This book is a reader that will be of great interest not only for scholars but also for teachers and students. It brings together the different historical approaches of mosques contructed after North-West India came under control of the Ghurid sultanate originating from Afghanistan in the 1190s. In his long introduction, the author wonderfully articulates the multiple contexts through which the earliest mosques in South Asia were constructed. All this to better understand how different historical approaches and discourses around the category of mosques have been shaped over time. It is not surprising then that this book found a place in the OUP series entitled “Debates in Indian History and Society.

Rémy Delage

More infos

http://www.oup.com