Resistance in disguise and the re-construction of identity: a case of the Pashtuns in Pakistan
Usman KHAN, Yu CHENG, Zahid Ali SHAH, Shakir ULAH
This ethnographic encounter explores the historical, cultural, and political erasure faced by the Pashtuns in the formal education institutions of Pakistan. Besides this erasure, Pashtuns are seen as a suspect community in the metanarrative and state discourse of Pakistan. This study aims to provide an insight into ways that a group of Pashtuns resist the popular hegemonic narrative of the state and provide an alternative narrative using spaces which this study calls “informal spaces.” Qualitative research methods, including in-depth interviews, participant observation, and informal discussions are used to collect data in the informal spaces that how the Pashtuns encounter the assimilationist project of the state. Findings show that the Pashtuns are stereotyped and suspected irrespective of their class, regional and tribal affiliation. Their historical and political figures are erased in the formal textbooks, and their language and cultural attire are synonymously and interchangeably equated with the Taliban and terrorists in popular media. Facing this marginalization and stigmatization in the metanarrative, a group of the Pashtuns resist the popular image somewhat James Scott terms as “resistance in disguise.” This study suggests that, for the nation-building project, the state must follow an inclusive and democratic approach that includes the historical, cultural, and political existence of the Pashtuns.
KEYWORDS: Pashtuns; informal spaces; Pakistan; resistance; ethnicity
Usman Khan, is a PhD scholar at Sun Yat-sen University of Guangzhou, China. His research interest includes state discursive, symbolic and everyday representation and practices in the peripheral zones, ethnic identities, ethnolinguistic politics, colonialism and post-colonialism, resistance with focusing on the Pashtuns of Pakistan. His broader area lies within the political and cultural anthropology.
Yu Cheng received his Ph.D. from Sun Yat-sen University and his MA from South-central University for Nationalities. After trained as Post-doctoral fellow in Yale University, Prof. Cheng has taught in the Department of Anthropology at Sun Yat-sen University and worked as the director of Department of Medical Humanities of Zhongshan School of Medicine at SYSU. He was coordinated scholar of Harvard-Yenching Institute and research associate of Asia Center at Harvard University from 2015-2-16. His current research interests focus on migrant health, medical anthropology and medical humanities education and elderly care in China.
Zahid Ali Shah working as an adjunct lecturer of Sociology at B.S Sociology Department, Post-Graduate College Timergara Dir Lower, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pakistan since September, 2018. He graduated from Department of Sociology with distinction from University of Peshawar in 2014. His M.A dissertation work was on Pakhtun resistance, titled “Analysis of Pakhtun Resistance towards State Laws”. He got his M.S degree in Social Anthropology in 2017, from Department of Anthropology, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. His M.S dissertation work was on “Orientalists Constructions of Pashtuns: On the Post-Colonial History and Repercussions”. His research interest areas are Orientalism, Colonialism and Post-colonial theory, Post-Modernism, Post-development Discourses, Transnational Feminism and Subaltern Studies.
Shakir Ullah has completed his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Department of anthropology Sun Yat-sen University Guangzhou, P.R China. Shakir Ullah research focused on anthropology of development, displacement and marginalization, mega development projects and impacts on local communities. He conducted fieldworks in in the coastal region of Balochistan province of Pakistan.