Punjab Research Group

PRG meeting 27 June 2015, SOAS

Posted in PRG Meetings by Pippa on June 26, 2015

The Politics of the Social and Beyond:

Hegemonies, Resistances, and Negotiations

B102, Brunei Gallery, SOAS, University of London, WC1H OXG

27 June 2015 at 10:00 AM


Full Programme: PRG Programme June 2015

Samina Bashir (Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad)

The Communal Award in Colonial Punjab: Implications and Impacts for Sikhs

Michael Nijhawan (Department of Sociology, York University, Canada)

The Asylum Courts’ Radiating Effect on Religion

Nicola Mooney (University of the Fraser Valley, Canada)

Caste, Dominance, and the Question of Form

Kavita Bhanot (University of Manchester)

Unpacking Multiculturalism and Hybridity: ‘Self’ and ‘Other’ in ‘Third Generation’ British Asian Literature

Yaqoob Khan Bangash (Forman Christian College, Lahore)

Bahawalpur State and Pakistan, 1947-55: Accession and Integration

And book launch of A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-1955 (OUP, 2015)

Radhika Chopra (Department of Sociology, University of Delhi)

Seeing off the dead: Post mortem photographs in the Durbar Sahib

Silas Webb (Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, Syracuse University)

State Surveillance, Neighbourhood Formation and Diaspora Politics: The ‘Pedlar Fraternity’ in Glasgow, 1925-1949

Virinder S. Kalra (School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester)

Book Launch and reception, with musical performance and dialogue with Rajveer Singh, Hardeep Singh Siera and Amrit Kaur Lohia: Sacred and Secular Musics: A Postcolonial Approach (Bloomsbury Press, 2015)

THAAP Talk Series: People’s History of Pakistan

Posted in Events by Pippa on March 27, 2015

23rd THAAP Talk by Mr. Tahir Mehdi

Mr. Tahir Mehdi has kindly agreed to give the 23rd THAAP Talk on

“GAWALAY OF LAHORE: A history of resistance against land grabbers and corporate onslaught”

SATURDAY, APRIL 04, 2015 at 6 pm, 43-G, Gulberg-III, Lahore, Pakistan


“Gawalay of Lahore: A history of resistance against land grabbers and corporate onslaught”

Speaker: Mr. Tahir Mehdi

Chairperson: Prof. Dr. Anis A. Siddiqi

The talk is about the untold story of peri-urban milk entrepreneurs of Lahore who fought against much more powerful and highly sophisticated adversaries in market, in ‘battlefield’ and in courts of law and survived.

Mr. Tahir Mehdi works at Punjab Lok Sujag, an advocacy and research organization that aims to put ‘local issues high on global agenda’. He is also a part-time journalist writing mostly for dawn.com

International Conference on “1947 : RETHINKING” 13th – 14th March, 2015

Posted in Conferences, Partition by Pippa on February 15, 2015

1947: Rethinking

Organised by Department of History, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra

For participation and further details please contact:-

Director of the Conference:

Prof. Amarjit Singh, Chairman, Department of History, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra-136119 (Haryana) (M) – 098121-84925

Landline No (s) – 01744-238410, 238196, 238679, Extn. 2558 & 2559 (Office)


Organizing Secretaries:

Dr. Nandini Bashistha, Assistant Professor, Dept. of History, K.U.Kurukshetra (M) – 09729074479

Mr. Dharamveer Saini, Assistant Professor, Department of History, K.U.Kurukshetra (M) – 097288-61900





Please attached for full details:Concept Note-1, Information regarding International Conference-1

Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership at DMU

Posted in PhD Studentship by Pippa on September 19, 2014

A great opportunity for UK/EU students. Have a look at the website for further details but if you are interested in developing a PhD project related to Punjab, Partition, women’s history in Pakistan or more broadly in another area of South Asian history please contact Dr Pippa Virdee (pvirdee@dmu.ac.uk) to discuss this further.

Offering you cross-institutional supervision, training, mentoring and career support to ensure that you produce world-leading research and maximise your career potential.

The Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) is a collaboration between De Montfort University and the universities of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Leicester, Birmingham and Birmingham City. This newly launched programme will provide you with combined research expertise for the personal and professional development, creating the next generation of arts and humanities doctoral researchers.

Through the partnership we aim to deliver excellence in all aspects of research supervision and training. We will assist you in acquiring the best supervision for your field of research, you will have access to a wide range of facilities and support networks across our campuses.

Visit DMU: http://www.dmu.ac.uk/research/midlands3cities-dtp/m3c.aspx

Visit http://www.midlands3cities.ac.uk to find out about this unique programme.

International Conference “Pakistan: Opportunity in Crisis”

Posted in Conferences by Pippa on April 23, 2014

Venue:  St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford

Dates: 10-11 May 2014

Entry: Student (£9) & Non-Student (£15) for registrations until 30/04/2014

More Details & Registration: http://www.knowledge.org.pk/


Pakistan has experienced political turbulences in the past, and its current security and economic challenges are indeed formidable. Yet the country continues to show remarkable national resilience in the face of these challenges. This is contrary to its doomsday portrayal in mainstream media and literature—which remains largely impervious to the myriad complexities of Pakistan’s internal realities, especially some viable social, political and economic transformations the country has undergone in recent years. Occurring amid critical circumstances, these transformations entail rare opportunities for reshaping Pakistan’s domestic politics and foreign policy, which need in-depth analysis and fresh insight. Hence this conference, which brings together prominent scholars and writers on Pakistan from UK and the rest of the world to critically debate the historical, political, social, economic and regional contexts underpinning such transformations, and thus rationally assess their potential outcomes for internal politics and external relations.

Tagged with: , ,

The politics of exclusion By Sarmad Sehbai

Posted in Articles, Partition, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on January 21, 2014

This is an old article but worth sharing here:

Tossing the empty bottle he shouts,                                                          

‘Oh world! Your beauty is your ugliness.’                                                  

The world stares back at him                                                                  

Their bloodshot eyes rattle with the question                                          

‘Who nabs the pillar of time                                                                        

By the noose of his drunken breath?                                                      

Who dares to break into dim corridors                                                        

Of twisted conscience?                                                                            

Who intrudes upon poisonous dens                                                            

Of demonised souls?                                                                        

Through icy glasses his rude glance                                                                    

Chases us like a footfall                                                                            

Foul monster!’                                                                                        

Bang! Bang!                                              -Majeed Amjad, Poem for Manto

Saadat Hasan Manto, a red rag to both conservative and progressive writers, was feared by the reactionary press, the state and the literary mafias of his times. All his life he fought the bigoted social reformers, ideologues and religious fanatics, facing various court trials with a heroic smile. His characters were not the mouthpieces of ready-made truths who would sermonise from a pulpit as saviours; neither Noori na Naari, neither angelic nor satanic, Manto’s Adam was born out of mud.

Manto spent the prime of his youth in Bombay and Delhi where he celebrated his poverty and prosperity, his successes and failures with the same zest for life. In 1948, betrayed by his friends, Manto decided to leave Bombay and move to Pakistanin the hope of a better life in the new country. He was disturbed by the communal riots and the gruesome scenes he had witnessed during the migration. With his failing health and two dependent daughters, he couldn’t figure out his whereabouts: “all day long I would sit on the chair lost in my thoughts not knowing what to do.”Lahore was far from welcoming. The doors of Radio Pakistan were closed to him and the reactionary press was hounding him for his bold writings. After a few months he wrote Thanda Gosht for which another trial was ready for him.

Manto could have survived all those slams and slurs but what threw him into total despair was the attitude of his own friends who expelled him from the Progressive Writers Association (PWA) in 1949. What had created panic among the progressives was first, a book Siyah Haashiye, and then Urdu Adab, a literary journal, through which Manto included writers from all schools of thought without bias. Siyah Haashiye was a book of black jokes about the callous killings during the riots. It showed a terrifying despair where one could not tell laughter from a scream. Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, the secretary-general of the Punjab branch of PWA, said after reading the book, “What I can see is a field littered with dead bodies where the writer is stealing cigarette butts and money from their pockets.” Qasmi’s critique was as callous as the callousness of the characters in the book.

On the publication of Urdu Adab, edited jointly by Muhammad Hasan Askari and Manto, Qasmi as the spokesman of the PWA, wrote  an open letter to the latter: “Get rid of the opium of art for art’s sake; bring Askari into your fold by converting him to the art for life. Our movement is based on owning, understanding and respecting the suffering of the masses.” Qasmi guided Manto like a protective father, fearing that Manto could be spoilt by Askari’s “influence of decadent French writers like Baudelaire, André Gide and Flaubert.”

In November 1949, at the all-Pakistan conference of PWA, a resolution was passed against certain writers including Hasan Askari, Manto and, according to Abdul Salam Khurshid, Qurratulain Hyder, whose name was later withdrawn. While Manto didn’t react directly at the time, he later (1951) wrote in Jaib-e-Kafan, “I was angry that Alif (Qasmi) had misunderstood me, doubted my intentions … I am depressed. I earn through my writings by working day and night. I have my wife and children, if they fall sick and if I were to beg for money going door to door I will be really disturbed. Art is autonomous and is an end in itself. It’s no one’s monopoly and it cannot be hegemonised by ideology. The government takes me as a communist and the communists take me as a reactionary.” Probably during the same period he wrote his epitaph which was inspired by Ghalib’s couplet, “ya rab zamana mujh ko mitata hey kis liay/loh-e-jahaan pe harf-e-mukkarrar nahin hoon mein [Oh God, why is Time rubbing me off? I am not a letter twice written on the slate of the world].”

Urdu Adab was closed down after the publication of only two issues. In the first two issues both the progressive and non-progressive writers were published but soon after an ‘office order’ by the PWA forced the progressive writers to boycott the journal. Many of them requested Manto to return their work to them. A desperate and visibly intimidated Arif Abdul Matin wrote to Manto, “for God’s sake return the manuscript of my play; it is no longer possible for me to get it published in Urdu Adab as our union has decided not to cooperate with certain writers.” Qasmi also withdrew his request for Manto’s story which earlier he had wanted to publish in Nuqoosh: “I had asked for your story before the decision by the union to avoid publishing those authors who don’t agree with the progressive movement.”

Why was Manto considered a threat to the progressives? Could it be ‘obscenity’ that had offended them in the context of the newly-founded Islamic Republic of Pakistan? But Faiz Ahmed Faiz had appeared in his defence at the trial of Thanda Gosht, and had not found the story obscene. According to Intizar Hussain, writing in Saadat Hussan Manto — After 50 Years published by GC University,Lahorein 2005, the reason for Manto’s exclusion “was all about the reaction of progressives to the Partition of India.” Quoting Askari, he says, “the progressives in their opposition to Partition were implying that had there been no demand for a Muslim country there would have been no communal riots.” Even this doesn’t appear plausible. If the progressives were not in favour of a Muslim state, why would Faiz, a staunch progressive, be the first and one of the very few commissioned officers who opted for the newly established state of Pakistan, and continued his job with the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Public Relations? And why would he write an editorial in The Pakistan Times on “the glorious role” of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in “the birth of a major state and the liberation of a major nation.”

In Siyah Haashiye or Urdu Adab, Manto did not appear to advocate a separate country but simply brought out the barbaric humour out of the killing of people in the name of religion. Manto in his writings had never defended one religion against another. Mozel, a Jewish woman, dies while saving a young Sikh, Tirlochan. While she is dying, Tirlochan tries to cover her naked body with his turban, but she sneers back: “Take away your religion.” In Thanda Gosht, it is the “wretched blood” of the wounded Ishar Singh that topples religion, caste and race. As to the demand forPakistan, Manto who had property in Amritsar didn’t claim anything after Partition except for an ice store inLahoreand that too was denied to him.

“Those who were talking of freedom of expression were resented by the progressives,” says Syed in Noori na Naari. But why should the progressives resent Manto when in their manifesto they had committed “to promote the freedom of expression”? They were struggling for the freedom of expression and so was he; they were “respecting the suffering of the masses” and he was going through suffering; they were talking about poverty and he was living it; they were romanticising the fallen man and Manto himself was the fallen man. So what caused such a reaction to the most gifted short story writer of his times? Muzaffar Ali Syed further elaborates, “immediately after the Second World War, the leaders of bourgeoisie socialism were ready to collaborate with the bourgeoisie — they were willing to sacrifice Mira ji, Manto and [Noon Meem] Rashid.”

Perhaps all that has been said are mere polemics of their times but there could be more than meets the eye…

Sometime in the mid-1930s, on a foggy “Night in London,” young Sajjad Zaheer saw “The Light.” In Nanking restaurant, amongst a coterie of like-minded male writers, Zaheer, lovingly called Banne Miaan, announced the manifesto of the PWA. Zaheer’s novel A Night in London established him as an icon of social commitment. The novel featured Hiren Pal, a committed freedom fighter who leaves his beloved Sheila Green to pursue the ideals beyond the love of a woman. This motif became a template for the progressive writers, “Aur bhi gham hein zamanay mein mohabat kay siwa [There are other woes in the world, apart from the woes of love]”.

The ‘othering’ of the female to assert the progressive mission created a binaric schizophrenia between the love of woman and social reality. The deferral of anima, the feminine side of male, is to repress the mother, the womb, the unconscious and to assert the father. As [French psychoanalyst] Lacan states, “When ideologues preach, they assert the patriarchy and it’s phallic.” Manto renames Qasmi as Alif, the vertical alphabet of Urdu language. The unbending thrust of ‘Alif’ is suggestive of phallic oppression. In his playful irreverence, Manto calls Zaheer an armchair communist, Faiz an afimi (lotus eater), and his own guru Bari Aleeg, a coward and a runchhor (unreliable). He prays to God to turn Chiragh Hasan Hasrat into Stalin who could dictate from behind the iron curtain. For Manto, they were the oppressive fathers who in Freudian terms would tell the child not to play with his genitals.

Mumtaz Shirin says, “Manto has presented the mother in the image of the prostitute.” In her book Noori na Naari, she discovers Manto in myth and religious archetypes. For her, Manto juxtaposes the holy mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, the sinful whore; the sacred and the profane. Manto’s heroines don’t queue up with the hearth-bound bibis or the drawing-room ladies of the elite; they stand out mostly as sex workers fighting for bare existence in a male’s world of exploitation and human degradation. With detached limbs and body parts as utility props they are the disfigured image of Madonna; damaged Eros. The loss of mother is the loss of womb, the loss of compassion, love and humanity in a society which is admonitory, tabooed and restrictive like the punishing father.

Manto resurrects the ghost of the feminine side, otherwise banished by the progressive patriarch, and by giving her a voice topples the despotic father figure of reform, pity and sympathy. Manto brings out the mother from the womb of a prostitute and confronts the oppressive father. He shatters the romantic ideal of the progressives by bringing out Sheila from their closets. He strips off her romantic trappings and places her next to Janki and Saugandhi. Perhaps this act of Manto made the progressives run for lights; he had nabbed “the pillar with the noose of his drunken breath.” His rude glance will keep chasing us like a footfall for many ages to come.

Sarmad Sehbai is a poet, playwright and drama director.

Link to article: http://herald.dawn.com/2012/05/14/the-politics-of-exclusion.html

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


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.

cfp: Pakistan Workshop 2014: State, society, bureaucracy and networks

Posted in Conferences, News/Information by Pippa on November 19, 2013

Venue: The Lake District, 9th-11th May 2014

The Pakistani bureaucracy has been acclaimed as the inheritor to the proceduralist bureaucracy of the khagazi raj or ‘document rule’ of the British colonial administration. The continuities with post-colonial Pakistani bureaucracy have frequently been noted. However, in recent years, parts of Pakistani bureaucracy have been prodded by international development assistance to reorganise on the lines of market efficiency, intermeshing the private corporate sector and ‘civil society’ with traditional bureaucratic proceduralism. This primacy of the market has been argued to have combined with new ideas about the legitimate relationship between state and society, advancing a new vision of the state itself. Elsewhere, bureaucracies have been studied as flexible, affective and humane organisations rather than rational, inflexible, and disenchanted structures. Pakistan is no exception to the moral embeddedness of bureaucracy and the fallacy of the impersonal bureaucratic persona is self-evident in a society where relations of patron-client have been suggested as foundational. This is a call for papers to explore aspects of Pakistani bureaucracy as networks –whether in the Latourian sense as in the Actor-Network Theory, or in a more traditional sociological understanding as forms of association between individuals and groups.

The Pakistan Workshop 2014 invites researchers of Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora to submit abstracts around this theme. ‘State, society, bureaucracy and networks’, as the theme for 2014 workshop, is only a guide to encourage submissions around this area which has been under represented in the academic discussions on Pakistan.  You may submit abstract of your papers even if they do not coincide with this theme but would be of interest to those working on Pakistan. The Pakistan Workshop was originally intended to bring together anthropologists and sociologists working on Pakistan, Pakistani diaspora and Islam in South Asia. However, we regularly receive work from a broad range of concepts and disciplines. This workshop is a forum for younger and more experienced researchers, providing an opportunity for people working in common fields to get acquainted with each other. It is therefore normally kept small and intimate with a group of 25 or less people. The venue, Rook How, is one of the oldest Quaker Meeting Houses in Britain and is an important location in the Quaker world. The Rook How offers dormitory style sleeping arrangements which are comfortable and affordable. For those who prefer B&B accommodation, there are several nice places around the area which can only be accessed if they have their own car. The deadline for abstracts is 28 February 2014. The selected contributors will be requested to pre-circulate their papers to two weeks before the workshop. For further information send an email at pakistanworkshop@googlemail.com or aq1@soas.ac.uk.

Organiser for Pakistan Workshop 2014

Ayaz Qureshi

Department of Anthropology

SOAS, University of London

Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square

London WC1H 0XG


PRG meeting University of Cambridge, 26 October

Posted in PRG Meetings by Pippa on October 29, 2013

The meeting was very kindly hosted by Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge and Tahir Kamran.

Chris Moffat

Chris Moffat

Chris Moffat, Placing Bhagat Singh

This paper raises some questions around the political life of monuments and the spectral potentiality of the past in contemporary India and Pakistan. It is an attempt to square the resonant and often ideologically-promiscuous meaning of the revolutionary martyr Bhagat Singh (1907-1931) with the seemingly insatiable compulsion among individuals and groups to ‘ground’ his ghost in space and place, to offer tribute to this iconic figure through memorial site and toponym, statue and museum. Interrogating this desire, I will consider the breathless calls for bigger museums, more statues, newly-named buildings and worthy events, caught, however they may be, in the uncertain space between genuine sentiment and populist politicking. Such calls are matched in volume by critiques of those memorials that already exist, lamenting their shortcomings or corruption. It is the elusiveness of consensus and the impossibility of ‘full’ recognition that interests me here: Bhagat Singh appears to exceed these place-making efforts in the same way he exceeds the language of nationalism. There is a challenge, perhaps, in monumentalizing a political death that was not in any clear sense foundational, that submits to no easy lineage, that was embraced by the revolutionary himself as a means to incite, to propel action: the infinite demand of rebellion standing against the comfortable finitude of statues. This tension becomes clear in the scene of a crowd shouting Bhagat Singh Zindabad, ‘Long Live Bhagat Singh’, before a memorial– as if to conjure his return, to offer him life, denying his entombment in bronze. This is not mourning nor genuflection but a call that affirms ongoing responsibility. Moving from New Delhi to Chandigarh, Jalandhar to Khatkar Kalan, Hussainiwala to Lahore, I will also consider those who resist monumentalization; who seek to fight alongside the ghost in a battle they see as ongoing, not yet ‘past’. Monuments, here, make way for street theatre groups and new pedagogical initiatives, activating different relationships to space and place. Through these preliminary reflections I hope to open a discussion on the work of the spectre, the problem of memory, and the public life of history in contemporary Punjab.


Priya Atwal with Virinder Kalra

Priya Atwal with Virinder Kalra

Priya Atwal, Politics Behind the Purdah: Maharani Jind Kaur and Anglo-Sikh Relations

The Anglo-Sikh Wars of the 1840s were a huge turning point for British imperial power in Asia, as victory over the Sikh kingdom finally allowed the East India Company to control India’s perilous north-western frontier, threatened as it was by Russian and Afghan advances at the time. My paper will introduce the research ideas that I am about to start work on as a DPhil student. The focus of my research is to study Sikh and British colonial narratives on the wars and their origins. The aim of my paper is to demonstrate some of the tensions and conflicts that exist within these narratives, which I intend to highlight by re-examining in particular their portrayal of Maharani Jind Kaur and her political activities during the 1840s and beyond. Central to this analysis will therefore be an attempt to deconstruct the historical split in the Maharani’s image as “saint” or “sinner”, further asking how and why such representations became important political weapons in Anglo-Sikh colonial relations. In addition to this, the paper will make the case for a deeper exploration of how gender politics had a significant impact on shaping events during the 1840s. It will be argued that the manner in which Jindan flouted gender conventions within a male-dominated and militarised society had a strong part to play in destabilising both internal and external political relations for the Lahore kingdom. Such an analysis will attempt to provide fresh insights into the socio-political conditions that characterised and brought on the expansion of British imperial power into the Punjab and up to the northern frontiers of India.


Minoti Chakravarty-Kaul with Pippa Virdee

Minoti Chakravarty-Kaul with Pippa Virdee

Minoti Chakravarty-Kaul, The Making of New Delhi & Unmaking the Punjab’s Village Community and its Village Commons 1911-2011

Delhi became the southern-most district of the Punjab after the upheaval of 1857 and remained a very important link of the Punjab to the rest of British India till 1911 when it was catapulted on to the national stage by the pronouncement of the King George V and Queen Mary at their  Coronation Durbar of 12th December 1911 to shift the captital from Calcutta. Thus the city of Shahjahanabad became Old Delhi. The new  Imperial City of New Delhi was centred on Raisina hill enclosing, to begin with the common property resources of more than one hundred and thirty six village communities of the surrounding  countryside. Therefore a narrative of what we have almost lost in these last 100 years of New Delhi may be valuable in the context of ecological lessons from the past. In the debris of a century we can still resurrect narratives of survival strategies characteristic of an abiding culture of indigenous ecology – that of sedentary communities who cohered with nomadic cultures of distant deserts to the north west stretching as far back as Afghansitan and with shepherdic transhumance from the foothills of the Siwaliks and upper Himalayas.


Virinder Kalra and Waqas Butt, with Tahir Kamran

Virinder Kalra and Waqas Butt, with Tahir Kamran

Virinder Kalra and Waqas Butt ‘In one hand a pen in the other a gun’: Punjabi language radicalism in Punjab, Pakistan

The relationship between language and politics in South Asia has provided a rich vein for academic analysis as it is tied up with issues related to nationalism and political mobilization. However, much of this analysis has been based on the Indian reorganization of states along linguistic lines or the role of language in the Bangladeshi liberation movement. This article discusses the role of language in the mobilization of the Left in Pakistan, specifically the way in which Punjabi was utilized by the Mazdoor Kisan Party at the theoretical and practical levels, in its mobilizing in the early 1970s. The role that language played in the site of student politics is illustrated through a case study of Sahiwal College. Overall, the role that Punjabi played as a mobilizing tool for the Left in Pakistan demonstrates a practice where culture and politics are inseparable and in this sense the article contributes to the wider debates on language and politics in South Asia.


Kamalroop Singh and Harminder Singh Ragi

Kamalroop Singh and Harminder Singh Ragi

Kamalroop Singh and Harminder Singh Ragi, ‘Preserving the Northern Indian Musical Heritage Performed in 1970s Britain.’
In the 1970s great musicians from the Panjab visited the UK where they performed and shared their art over three years. The musicians were masters in their art, and they performed the khyal and dhrupad styles of music. Dhrupad literally means ‘fixed words’, and was developed for singing verses that were written in specific rhythms. The newer khyal genre has gained popularity at dhrupad’sexpense, as it places fewer constraints on the singers and allows displays of virtuosity. As a result the dhrupad art form is now becoming rare, especially since many maestros have now passed away. Luckily, some of their live performances were recorded on spool machines, which private collectors have donated to the Panjab Cultural Association.  We are currently cataloguing and digitising fifty of the recordings for posterity and we will be presenting the project to date. In our paper we explore how the Sikh music tradition has evolved from dhrupad, to khyal, along with the modern influence of ghazals and Hindi popular music.  Finally, we will examine and demonstrate how the introduction of new instruments has led to the original style of Kirtan to become endangered.


Professor Chris Bayly

Professor Chris Bayly











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PRG Meeting Coventry University – 29 June 2013

Posted in PRG Meetings by Pippa on October 29, 2013

The meeting was very kindly hosted by Shinder Thandi and Coventry University.

Malik Hammad Ahmad Lang

Malik Hammad Ahmad Lang

Malik Hammad Ahmad Lang, Civil Resistance Movements of Pakistan: Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) 1981-84

The research project focuses on political civil resistance in Pakistan covering the period of 1977-88, the martial law regime of General Zia-ul-Haq. The worst martial law in the history of Pakistan changed the political, social, economical and cultural outlook of the country. To resist the dictatorship, democratic forces launched a movement to restore the democracy in the country in 1981 called MRD, which continued periodically until 1988. However, my presentation looks at its first phase covering 1981-84. Political scholarship, largely, blamed Punjab of not taking part effectively in the movement along with Sindh, and made it a reason of its failure. Countering the argument, this study tries to highlight some facts to overruled the blame.



Pippa Virdee

Pippa Virdee

Pippa Virdee, Emergence and Resistance: the dichotomy of women’s space in Pakistan.

This paper is based on work in progress that will explore the transformation of women in Pakistan. In colonial Punjab reformers often took up the cause of women and advocated change that encouraged girl’s education and bringing women out of ‘purdah’ (veil/seclusion). This had limited results until Jinnah embraced the need to encourage women within the Pakistan Movement, which led many elite women to come out in support of it. This period is therefore crucial in understanding the transformation of women in public spaces. Yet by the 1980s (some thirty years later), women form resistance movements against oppressive legislation introduced by Zia. The Women’s Action Forum led the way in opposing this and resisting the curtailment of freedoms. Through visual and oral accounts this paper will attempt to understand the transformation of women in public spaces and the dichotomies of this within their private lives.






Kavita Bhanot

Kavita Bhanot

Kavita Bhanot, Depicting a dera community in Birmingham: extract from novel in progress

I will be presenting a chapter from my novel-in-progress, a fictional depiction of a dera community that gathers around a guru in Birmingham in the 1980’s. The novel spans ten years and charts, through the lives of first and second generation Punjabi immigrants , the growth of this dera community and the opposition that it faces in its local, national and international context. I recently edited an anthology titled ‘Too Asian, Not Asian Enough,’ which brought together short stories by British Asian writers – stories which go beyond marketable formulaic narratives about inter-generation/culture clash.  While one approach is to avoid the predictable subjects or writing about ‘Asians’ at all, my personal intention in my writing is to bring particularity, knowledge, a sense of history and context, into my depiction of Punjabis in Britain. To interrogate the Orientalist gaze that tends to dominate English language South Asian literature, a gaze that “strip(s) specific traditions, rituals, religions and other forms of lived faith…of their context and detail – of history, politics, class and caste.”


Umber Abad with Virinder Kalra

Umber Abad with Virinder Kalra

Umber Abad, Singular Muslim Identity and trail towards Auqaf; a becoming post-Colonial modern

The politics of Colonial Urban Punjab engendered a unique singular conception of Islam in the first half of twentieth century. The singular Islam, initially strived to open itself for all streams of Muslims within one religious idea, compelled to exclude deviant forms in order to clear the path for the prevalence of its politics. The singular Islam considered deviant any form of Muslim community and the mystical insight that threatened the idea of finality of prophet-hood and the idea of unity of God. The singular Islam, as became the basis of singular Muslim identity and a central point in the politics of Muslim League, in its exclusionary form prevailed further within the political elite of postcolonial state. In order to land in the modern world, the political elite strived to develop a society where the idea of singular Islam attached with high-moral practices could be implemented. However, the political situation eased to control the excluded forms of Islam. The efforts for Islamization soon found ways to control Waqf Properties, largely attached with shrines through an institution, as during 1952-53 to make Auqaf Board in order to curb un-Islamic practices. However till 1958, largely due to the incapacity of the state institution the control could not produce any significant effect. Re-surfacing the appropriating position of singular Islam through interpreting the thoughts of Allama Iqbal, however, military rule found it justified and co-related with its urge of reforming archaic society to take over the excluded religious practices at shrines through Auqaf Administration.


Daniel Haines with Ali Usman Qasmi and Chris Moffat

Daniel Haines with Ali Usman Qasmi and Chris Moffat

Daniel Haines, Making places national: Local agency in the Punjab borderland, 1952-1955

The India-Pakistan border in Punjab today features highly visible fences and guards. Shortly after Partition, however, many parts of the border were not demarcated, and the authorities on each side had different ideas about where the boundary line lay. Examining two incidents of minor border conflict between 1952 and 1955, the paper sets out a view of a historical moment in which the lack of a clear boundary gave space to the localised agency of minor officials, lower-ranking military and police officers, and even civilian agriculturalists. Rather than being hemmed in by territorial limits that the state’s higher echelons imposed, everyday actors explored the ill-defined borderland between the two countries. On both sides of the border, these actors themselves made de facto boundaries. Drawing on the wealth of political geography literature that informs border studies, as well as historical studies of border politics in post-Partition South Asia, the paper’s case studies examine the relationship between local agency and ideas of national territory in partitioned Punjab. Both case studies illustrate how civilian and petty-official mobility in the borderland forced the provincial authorities on both sides to continually negotiate the spatial dimensions of their authority, based as much on practical coercive power as on the disputed meaning of the Radcliffe Boundary Award. The paper argues that such local actions politicised the parts of the borderland in which they took place. Through the symbolism of land in the mythology of territorial nation-states, and through the hydro-geographical connections between canal headworks on the border and Punjab’s vast irrigation network, these incidents were integral to the definition of borderland spaces as national places. The paper is based on archival work in the Punjab Archives, Lahore, and the National Archives, New Delhi.


Round table discussion chaired by Ian Talbot

Round table discussion chaired by Ian Talbot

Tahir Kamran, Ali Usman Qasmi, Ifitkhar Malik and Yunas Samad, Round table discussion on the 2013 Elections in Pakistan: A Punjab perspective.









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Women and Partition by Pippa Virdee

Posted in Articles, New Publications, Partition by Pippa on October 9, 2013

A couple of new articles on women and partition:

Pippa Virdee, ‘Remembering partition: women, oral histories and the Partition of 1947.’ Oral History, Autumn 2013, Volume 41, No 3, pp. 49-62.

Abstract: This article explores key developments in the way Partition has been represented in the history of India and Pakistan. It more specifically examines how alternative silent voices have been become more visible in the past fifteen years in the historiography of Partition. This shift has been made possible with the use of oral testimonies to document accounts of ordinary people’s experiences of this event in the history of India and Pakistan. The article then goes on to reflect on the author’s experiences of working in South Asia and the use of oral history as a radical and empowering tool in understanding women’s history in Pakistan.

Follow link for details: http://www.oralhistory.org.uk/journal-search.php?parameter=issue&searchkey=86


Pippa Virdee, ‘The Heart Divided: Writing the Human Drama of Partition in India/Pakistan’


Poetry as Resistance: Islam and Ethnicity in Postcolonial Pakistan by Nukhbah Langah

Posted in Book reviews, New Publications by Pippa on February 10, 2012

Poetry as Resistance: Islam and Ethnicity in Postcolonial Pakistan by Nukhbah Langah (Routledge, 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 by Sufi poets, their poetry takes the shape of both protest and dialogue. This book reflects upon the politics of identity and the political complications which are a result of colonisation and later, neo-colonisation of Pakistan. It challenges the philosophy of Pakistan — a state created for Muslims — which is now taking the shape of religious fanaticism, while disregarding ethnic and linguistic issues such as that of Siraiki.

Read review by Ayesha Siddiqa in The Friday Times: http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta2/tft/article.php?issue=20120210&page=19

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