SOAS University of London

School of Arts

Imagining Pakistan: Culture, Politics, Gender

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Term 2

This module aims to develop and foster a deeper understanding of Pakistan's popular culture. It will cover a wide range of themes including representations of honour killing, contexts of piety and modernity, visual cultures, sexual politics, diaspora narratives and the politics of censorship and free speech. 



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will have:

  • A critical understanding of literary and cultural texts in their appropriate historical and cultural contexts
  • Developed an interdisciplinary humanities based understanding of popular culture in conversation with the social sciences.
  • An understanding how local, national and global debates on culture interact
  • Developed necessary oral and written skills for sophisticated communication of relevant ideas, concepts and arguments.


This module will be taught over 10 weeks with a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar per week. 

Scope and syllabus

Primary texts will vary from year to year, but a typical syllabus will consist of literary (including life writing), filmic, anthropological  texts complemented by region specific contextual texts and theoretical underpinning. In addition module readings and discussions will be guided by the following major themes:

  • Sufi imaginaries
  • Sexual politics, performativity and the ‘mediasphere’
  • Faith, Fear and Blasphemy
  • Piety and Modernity
  • Shaming Women
  • Music subcultures

Method of assessment

  • X 4 reaction papers (400 words) each (40%)
  • One essay (2,500 words) (40%)
  • One oral presentation (10-15 minutes) (10%)
  • Participation in 10 seminars (10%).

Suggested reading

  • Ahmad, Salman. Rock and Roll Jihad: a Muslim Rock Star’s Revolution. Free Press, 2010.
  • Ahmad, R [ed & tr] (1990) We Sinful Women: contemporary Urdu Feminist Poetry.  London: The Women’s Press
  • Nadeem Aslam, Maps for Lost Lovers, Faber, 2004.
  • Michel Boivin, Historical Dictionary of the Sufi culture of Sindh in Pakistan and India. Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Saba Mahmood, The politics of Piety: the Islamic revival and the feminist subject. Princeton: Princeton university Press.
  •  Khuda ke liye (In the name of God), Dir. Shoaib Hashmi, 2007.
  • Ramchand Pakistani Dir. Mehreen Jabbar, 2008.
  • How Gay is Pakistan?  (BBC 3 documentary, 2015)
  • Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb, I am Malala: the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban, Little Brown and Company 2013.
  • Mukhtar Mai, In the Name of Honour: a memoir, 2006, Virago, UK.
  • Gillian Whitlock, Soft Weapons: Autobiography in Transit, University of Chicago Press, 2006.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules