Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2011
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University
Invoking ‘Azaadi’: Practices of Freedom in Kashmir

The movement for freedom from Indian rule, articulated as azaadi - the Urdu word for freedom - was launched in India-administered Kashmir in 1989, resulting in more than a decade of armed militancy and a brutal reprisal by the Indian state. At present, Hurriyat (G), the Islamist faction of the political front of Kashmiri separatists based in the capital city of Srinagar heads the freedom movement.While the demand for freedom from India is made transnationally intelligible as the political right to self-determination, in local publics and media it is also staked to the formation of a specifically Muslim political community towards which individual members must fulfill their ethical obligations. As the locus of ordinary social and economic activity, the marketplace becomes an important site for the implementation of separatist civil disobedience and protest activities, but the resultant loses suffered by the Kashmiri Muslim mercantile community amounts to billions of dollars. My research consists of an ethnographic focus on Kashmiri Muslim merchants in Srinagar to study the tensions they experience between the demands made on them in the struggle for political self-determination and the freedom to pursue their individual moral responsibilities as Muslims towards their families, livelihoods and religious duties.With this approach in mind, my research aims to shift the debate on the Kashmiri freedom movement from deliberative discourses and political rhetoric to the realm of everyday practices. I observe these practices as they arise within the ethos and sociality of the urban marketplace as a locally embedded public and a place of congregation and exchange. Finally, I take the merchant as the locus of a distinct Muslim ethico-political subjectivity, committed to both success in worldly pursuits and individual requital to God in the afterlife, in making inquiries into the exercise of freedom in Kashmir.