Ghazal Asif

AnthropologyJohns Hopkins University

Award Information

2016 IDRF Program

AnthropologyJohns Hopkins University

Papering the Divide: Religious Difference, Bureaucracy, and Belonging in Pakistan

This dissertation will examine how modes of governance relate to what it is to be a Hindu in predominantly Muslim Pakistan. I propose to study how the Hindu minority community aspires towards, and patches together, a semi-official existence in the suspension of official recognition. My hypothesis is that creative substitutions for suspended bureaucratic processes serve to establish Hindu belonging to the Pakistani state, by articulating political claims to citizenship. To this end, I will conduct ethnography and participant observation at the lower courts, government offices, and community councils in the town of Mirpurkhas, to understand the relationship of Pakistani Hindus to local government and bureaucracy. I will study how a religious minority aspires to a political life within an ideological state that only partially recognizes it. In these circumstances, how is the material infrastructure of legal and political life used to reimagine notions of viable forms of citizenship? What may be the motivations and circumstances for creating an appeal to the state through bureaucracy, amidst the abeyance of legal codes? This project will also examine state archives in Karachi, the former federal capital and current provincial capital city, to track antecedents on the minority question in the early years of Pakistan, as well as how the law has accommodated and contracted such valences of citizenship since 1947. Addressing long-standing questions about the relationship of minorities to the modern state, my dissertation project will explore how political subjectivity and the nature of citizenship and belonging may be navigated in creative ways. In so doing, it indexes current debates on citizenship, religious freedom and the place of the law.