Laurent Gayer is a Research Fellow at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), currently posted at the Centre de sciences humaines (CSH), Delhi. He is also Research Associate at the Centre d’Etudes de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud, Paris.
“With an official population approaching fifteen million, Karachi is one of the largest cities in the world. It is also the most violent. Since the mid-1980s, it has endured endemic political conflict and criminal violence, which revolve around control of the city and its resources (votes, land and bhatta—‘protection’ money). These struggles for the city have become ethnicised. Karachi, often referred to as a ‘Pakistan in miniature,’ has become increasingly fragmented, socially as well as territorially. Continue reading Book: Karachi. Order Disorder and the Struggle for the City by Laurent Gayer
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
Daniel Haines, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London
“European empires disintegrated during the twentieth century, leaving newly-formed postcolonial states in their wake. In this turbulent period, governments sought new political idioms to support their claims to legitimacy as modern states. In Sindh, a part of British India and (later) of Pakistan, the late colonial and early post-colonial states combined major attempts to control the natural environment with a serious engagement with representative politics in their bid for legitimacy. 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; while the complicated relationship between bureaucracies and legislatures moved towards a democratic ideal after the First World War. Continue reading Book: Building the Empire, Building the Nation by Daniel Haines
Jürgen Wasim Frembgen, Nocturnal Music in the Land of the Sufis. Unheard Pakistan, Karachi, OUP, 2012.
“In Nocturnal Music in the Land of the Sufis, Jürgen Wasim Frembgen takes the reader along on his fascinating journeys into the world of mystic music in Pakistan. In rich descriptions, he relates his personal experiences and emotions during ecstatic nights of transcendental music at Sufi shrines. He also recounts trance rituals and the sublime rapture of classical music in private music rooms in Lahore. In his ethnographic narrative, he unfolds authentic cultural contexts and life-worlds in which music is deeply embedded, tracing how music is perceived and ‘tasted’ by listeners. He himself listens with all his senses, above all with the ‘ear of the heart’, to the nuances in sounds which seek to remove the veils between man and God. Thus, he experiences spirituality and discovers the enormous power of music in the land of the Sufis – experiences and discoveries that he shares with the reader in this volume.” Continue reading Book: Nocturnal Music in the Land of the Sufis by Jürgen Wasim Frembgen
In her review article (“Contesting notions of Pakistan“, Economic & Political Weekly, November 10, 2012, vol. XLVII, n°45.), S Akbar Zaidi, a political economist based in Karachi, draws a comparative, critical and stimulating analysis of six recent books focusing on Pakistan. These books, of varying genres (journalistic, policy-oriented, academic, literary…) and covering various themes (history, state formation, religion, politics, economy…), offer contrasting views, analysis and interpretations of today’s Pakistan. Continue reading A comparative review of recent books on Pakistan (EPW)
Alexandre Papas, Thomas Welsford, Thierry Zarcone (eds), Central Asian Pilgrims. Hajj Routes and Pious Visits between Central Asia and the Hijaz, Islamkundliche Untersuchungen 308, Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 2011.
Continue reading Book: Central Asian Pilgrims and Hajj Routes
Nukhbah Taj Langah, Poetry as Resistance: Islam and Ethnicity in Postcolonial Pakistan, New Delhi, Routledge India, 2011.
“Focusing on the culturally and historically rich Siraiki-speaking region, often tagged as ‘South Punjab’, this book discusses the ways in which Siraiki creative writers have transformed into political activists, resisting the self-imposed domination of the Punjabi–Mohajir ruling elite. Influenced Continue reading Book: Poetry, Islam and Ethnicity in Postcolonial Pakistan