Reimagining Baloch relationships to the Pakistani nation state in contemporary art and English-language fiction
Date: 5 March 2014Time: 5:30 PM
Finishes: 5 March 2014Time: 7:00 PM
Venue: Russell Square: College BuildingsRoom: Khalili Lecture Theatre
Type of Event: Seminar
Series: SSAI Seminar Programme
In the days of the Raj, the British formed what is now the Pakistani province of Balochistan out of historically and ethnically disparate elements for geographical, administrative and security reasons. When India was granted independence in 1947, and a separate Pakistan was created, Baloch nationalists believed that the postcolonial Dominion had agreed to the independence of the Khanate of Kalat, which they saw as the historic Baloch national state. When Kalat was forcibly “integrated” into Pakistan, they felt betrayed. Revolts ensued in the years 1948-9 following Kalat’s accession; in the late-1950s after Balochistan was merged into West Pakistan under the geopolitical “One Unit” scheme; over the building of military bases and distribution of revenues from the Sui gasfields in 1963-1969; when President Bhutto dismissed the province’s moderate nationalist government in 1973; and from 2005, following the rejection of Bugti’s demands for greater control and his subsequent rebellion. As Declan Walsh observes, the ethnic Baloch ‘have always been reluctant Pakistanis’.
Deep resentment regarding the Punjabi-dominated central government’s exploitation of the oil and mineral wealth of Pakistan’s largest province, ethnic “swamping”, and the abuse of its indigenous people continue to this day. Pakistani Army generals may assert that ‘each and every citizen of Balochistan is equally dear’. But a picture of equality in terms of basic human rights, access to political life, or national belonging is not what emerges in journalistic reports or other cultural forms from this troubled region – where (thwarted by censorship) any picture emerges at all.
This paper will explore how recent English-language fiction, non-fiction and some fine art works inform local and international understandings of how ethnic Baloch are positioned as (non-) citizens, and of how they would position themselves, in relation to the postcolonial nation state. It also questions how (far) artists and writers may intervene to expose Pakistan’s failure to extend full human rights to its Baloch citizens.
Texts considered will include Jamal Ahmad's book of linked historical fiction, The Wandering Falcon; Mohammed Hanif's narration of the “stories” of the families of disappeared people, The Baloch Who is Not Missing; brief comparisons will be made with sculptures and paintings by contemporary Baloch artists.
Madelie Clements has a BA in English from Oxford and an MA in National and International Literatures in English from London University’s Institute of English Studies, where she studied with the writer and critic Aamer Hussein. Her AHRC-funded doctoral thesis, supervised by Professor Peter Morey at the University of East London, was entitled Orienting Muslims: Mapping Global Spheres of Affiliation and Affinity in Contemporary South Asian Fiction. In the spring of 2012 she undertook a two-month Residency at the National College of Arts, Lahore. Her encounters with artists there are central to her new research, which asks how art and literature from Pakistan represent and re-imagine what the rights of citizenship mean for embattled minority communities within the formal equalities promised by the postcolonial nation-state. Her articles and reviews have appeared in a range of publications including: Imagining Muslims: of South Asia and the Diaspora: Secularism, Religion, Representations; Sohbet: Journal of Contemporary Arts and Culture; the Times Literary Supplement; Dawn's Books & Authors supplement, and Wasafiri.
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