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Title: States Of Struggle: Politics, Religion, And Ecology In The Making Of The Northern Areas, Pakistan
Authors: Ali, Nosheen
Keywords: Pakistan
Issue Date: 19-Aug-2009
Abstract: My dissertation investigates the nature of state power and social struggle in the disputed border territory of the Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan), Pakistan. This strategic region comprises 86% of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, is the only Shiadominated political unit in Sunni-dominated Pakistan, and is valued nationally and globally as a rare biodiversity hotspot. How is rule accomplished and negotiated in such an extraordinary space, where people are simultaneously border, religious, and environmental subjects? I address this question using ethnographic and textual analysis, examining first the state practices of political, religious, and environmental regulation through which the Northern Areas is constructed and contained. These practices include the denial of basic constitutional rights such as voting, the silencing of Shia religious identity in school textbooks, and the appropriation of pastoral land for national parks. Second, I illuminate how people in the Northern Areas have engaged in critical struggles for political justice, religious recognition, and ecological sovereignty, in an effort to rework state power and realize a more substantive vision of citizenship. By examining state rule and citizenship struggles in a unified analytic field, my research elaborates how the nation-state and its regional subjects are mutually constituted through a continuous process of negotiation. It captures the ?states of struggle? that exist both within and between the state and region, highlighting the unevenness and contingency of power. Four processes of state-making form the crux of my inquiry: representation, militarization, sectarianization, and conservation. I examine how these processes are enacted and experienced, and how they have reoriented local attachments to the nation, to religion, and to land. Such a multi-process analysis of state-making yields several broader insights. I argue, first, that seemingly unlinked state-formative processes must be examined relationally in order to grasp the intersecting ways in which nation-states govern spaces and subjects. Second, my analysis draws attention to state-making as a regional exercise, highlighting how sub-national, place-based expressions of rule jointly make the state and the region. Finally, a multilayered, ethnographic understanding of state-making reveals the state not as a coherent structure of legibility and integration, but as an unwieldy assemblage that operates through illegibility, disintegration, and the constitution of affect. Specifically, state power in Pakistan?s Northern Areas exemplifies what I call politically disorganized subjection, whereby rule is accomplished through the cultivation of erasure and ambiguity, divisiveness and manipulation, and emotional regulation via the production of loyalty and suspicion. This subjection simultaneously produces concealment, consent, coercion, and conflict. While state subjection in the Northern Areas has structured local subjectivities and imaginaries in intensely disempowering ways, its expressions are nevertheless constantly contested and reworked. My dissertation illuminates a range of individual and collective action as forms of critical struggles through which agents ? including state officials themselves ? strive to promote a progressive vision of ethics and politics in the region. Covering political activism, religio-political movements, literary performances, and community-based conservation efforts, I examine how people in the Northern Areas struggle to imagine new social futures for their region and for the Pakistan state.
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