Current Institutional Affiliation
Research Fellow, Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Duke University
Soldiers Now, Citizens Later: Baloch Mercenaries and Bahraini State Formation

National Armies, composed of citizen-soldiers, have been an integral feature of modern nation-states. Recruitment of nationals for state institutions like the army is considered essential for tying together the nation and the state. The nation furnishes state armies with its own nationals, who in their capacity as state-functionaries, often police the nation, as much as fight external wars. Recently though, various states around the world have started employing foreign laborers for positions within critical state institutions like the army. In Bahrain, over 40% of the National Guards are recruited from the Pakistani province of Balochistan. This project asks; how do mercenaries mediate the relationship between state and society? It posits the hypothesis that mercenaries, given their connection to both the place of recruitment and place of deployment, formulate not a binary state-society relationship but a triangulated relation with the mercenary-exporting state as the third coordinate. The research follows Baloch mercenary networks in order to understand 1) how the Bahraini state, through the process of mercenary recruitment, gets woven into political struggles in Pakistan, and 2) how sections of the Bahraini society, due to political maneuvering on the part of Baloch mercenaries, forms bonds with the Pakistani state on the basis of shared sectarian identities. It argues that these two interrelated processes mutually reinforce each other, resulting in state-society aligning along sectarian lines and increasing influence of the Pakistani State. Building on previous professional experience, ethnographic fieldwork, and archival research; the project looks to conduct 14 months of fieldwork in Karachi (Pakistan), Gawadar (Pakistan) and Manama (Bahrain), on the processes and discourses around mercenary recruitment, payment and deployment.