Punjab Research Group

cfp: PAKISTAN BEYOND TREMORS AND TERROR: Critical Engagements With Political, Economic And Cultural Change

Posted in Conferences by Pippa on January 21, 2014
Conference Date: Thursday, May 29th 2014 – Friday, May 30th 2014Location: University of Toronto, Ryerson University and York University in Toronto, Canada

Deadline for Submissions: Feb 16, 2014.

Call for Papers:

As host to a daily onslaught of bomb-blasts, ‘honour killings’, and ‘mob’ violence, Pakistan regularly populates the pages of the international mainstream press. But these popular journalistic accounts often leave the impression that the country is embroiled in a spate of irrationality, violence and Islamic fundamentalism. Alternatively, liberal Pakistanis, if they make an appearance in the drama, are celebrated as carriers of the torch of progress, challenging the dominance of religious conservatism with their unrivalled ‘toleration’, their capitalist ‘development’, and their support for the Pakistani state’s military offensives and the broader ‘War on Terror’. This is the narrative typically delivered to the world.

Unfortunately, this is also a narrative which has not remained within the ambit of journalism. Much of recent scholarly work on Pakistan too has been guilty of reproducing a crude and overly-narrow analysis of the country and its people, an analysis (if one could call it that) which seems to be more committed to promoting US foreign policy objectives than to stimulating any serious academic inquiry. On the one hand, for instance, we have Anatol Lieven, in Pakistan: A Hard Country, declaring Pakistan to be “a highly conservative, archaic, even sometimes quite inert and somnolent mass of different societies” and, on the other, we have Stephen Cohen, in The Idea of Pakistan, inviting US intervention to awaken this slumbering nation. Invariably, much of this analysis re-Orientalizes Pakistan and views the country as overrun by ‘mad’ fundamentalists and militant Islamists, while prescribing a variant of imperialism, militarism and/or liberalism as an antidote to it.

This conference will challenge these views and will bring together scholars and students whose research moves beyond these prevailing ways to a more complex understanding of Pakistan and its people. We encourage contributions which critically interrogate the ‘War on Terror’ by placing it within the broader imperatives of US imperialism, and which question the assumption that liberalism is the ‘natural’ antidote to fundamentalism. We also invite papers which seek to go beyond popular analysis of religious violence – which sees its perpetrators as ‘irrational mobs’ – by probing what motivates people to commit the escalating scale of inhuman acts and violence, and whether the Pakistani state and its ruling classes can remain indifferent or, as some have argued, complicit in the perpetuation of this deathly violence. Finally, in addition to contesting popular discourses around Islamic fundamentalism and the ‘War on Terror’, this conference also intends to give attention to other topics scarcely covered in the mainstream.

In this regard, we wish to focus on a rapidly growing population undergoing immense social change. The onslaught of neoliberal globalisation poses fundamental questions for the changing nature of Pakistan’s political economy. These changes affect not only the rural space, and concomitant struggles of the peasantry, but also impact Pakistan’s burgeoning informal economy and manifest themselves through a marked ‘feminisation of poverty’ and multifarious struggles in urban (and urbanising) areas. What effects have a surging private sector (including private media, corporations and NGOs) had on the prospect of upward social mobility for women? Moreover, rapidly expanding, and often sensationalist, private media also raises questions about the role of art, cinema and cultural expression as a vehicle towards a radical and transformative praxis.

In bringing together scholars and students of a critical outlook, this conference has a three-fold purpose. Firstly, and most immediately, it hopes to provide a necessary counterpoint to the dominance of rhetorically rich but theoretically poor analysis of Pakistan. Secondly, we expect that, at the conference’s conclusion, the attendees will get a better sense of the breadth of critical scholarship on Pakistan, and be in a better position to identify sites of theoretical and political difference and agreement. Finally, it is also our desire that the conference will provide an opportunity for various critical scholars to begin to work together and co-ordinate their research on Pakistan.

Submission Topics:
We invite both panel proposals and papers on themes and topics including but not limited to:

  • Imperialism, the ‘War on Terror’, and regional geopolitics
  • The Pakistani state, military, and judiciary
  • Re-Orientalization of Pakistan
  • Interrogating modernity in Pakistan’s context
  • Fundamentalism, militant Islam  and sectarian violence
  • Agrarian economy and agrarian transitions
  • Informal economy and precarity/precarious labour
  • Patriarchy, gender and feminisms
  • Urbanization and social change
  • Social movements, peasant politics, trade unionism, and labour struggles
  • Nationalisms and regional tensions
  • Popular Culture, literature, art and the Left
  • Development, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the International Financial Institutions (IFIs)
  • Mal-development, poverty and destitution
  • Diaspora: its contradictions and contributions towards and altered status quo

Submissions:

Please send your submissions to: submit@pakistanconference.org

Panel submissions: Please submit a working title and 250-word abstract for the panel, along with individual paper titles and their respective 250-word abstracts. Please also include the names, email addresses, and affiliated institutions or organizations of all panelists.

Individual paper submissions: Please submit a 250-word abstract that includes your name, email address,and affiliated institution or organization.

Deadline for submissions is 12:00 am, Feb 16, 2014. Accepted presenters will receive notification by email by March 1, 2014.

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