A Methodological Footnote

I wrote,

The makers of Pakistan were peasants and laborers. In 1940, they passed a resolution in Lahore to demand a separate homeland for Muslims and an end to British colonial occupation. In 1946, their votes brought a political party, the Muslim League, to power. They chose Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a modernist technocrat, as their leader.

The first sentence was a deliberate conceptualization of how I would approach a possible history of Pakistan. It garnered a critique from friend and CM associate Musharraf Ali Faroqui on twitter (storify: by @salmaan_H and by @anniepaul).

So allow me to lay out here, more substantively, my methodological hypothesis and argue against the dominant paradigm within which popular understandings of 1947 enact themselves.

To wit:
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On the Elections

I have an op-ed in NYT on the subject of elections and minority rights in Pakistan:

On Saturday, Pakistanis will head to the polls to choose a new government; for the first time in 66 years, a democratically elected administration has completed its term. Given Pakistan’s tumultuous past, this is an impressive achievement, but it should not prevent citizens from asking the candidates vying for their votes: what kind of Pakistan have you made?

Do read & c;

Daisy Rockwell Answers

Our lapata is interviewed at CNN’s OutFront on her recent book and her “controversial” art:

OutFront: Our last conversation got a lot of attention and really seemed to upset a lot of people. Why do you think that happened?

Rockwell: It seemed as though people were especially bothered by the fact that I was Norman Rockwell’s granddaughter and was somehow showing sympathy toward terrorists. They saw this as a desecration of Norman Rockwell’s message. The problem with this is that Norman Rockwell has a near-universal appeal that is not restricted to America, in my experience. This is due, in my opinion, to the humanism of his work. For many on the right, however, Rockwell’s work symbolizes something much narrower: a lost Eden in which life was simpler, ‘traditional’ family values were not questioned, and, well, white people were in the majority. Showing sympathy (read ‘humanism’) toward an other (Muslims, alleged terrorists) that is seen as directly threatening America and that particular view of American life is therefore treason of the highest order. The people who were upset by your story about “The Little Book of Terror” couldn’t see that link between my work and my grandfather’s: the impulse to find the humanity in all people. It’s just that the people in whom I try to find it are sometimes harder to relate to than the folks down at the soda fountain.

And my favorite answer ever!!

OutFront: You’ve spent time in India. What can you tell us about the country?

Rockwell: I’ve spent a good deal of time in India, over the years. Lack of funds and a small child have prevented me from visiting recently. India is extremely diverse in so many ways–linguistically, culturally, socio-economically–the biggest mistake one can make about India is trying to boil it down to one characteristic, although this is very popular in journalism.

Go read the whole thing, and then give a shout-out to lapata on twitter.

On ideas of Indian citizenship

Niraja Gopal Jayal, Citizenship and its Discontents: An Indian History, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.

A version of this review essay appears in the May issue of the Caravan.

My first formal encounter with the idea of citizenship was through an eighth-standard Civics textbook in India. In the Indian educational system, Civics had the secondary status of a quasi-subject counting for about 20 percent of the combined History-Civics paper. The textbook was an object of derision for its excruciating dullness and a source of mirth because of gems such as “The President of India is a rubber stamp. Discuss.” But the awkward appending of Civics to History was neither meaningless nor accidental. Given the history of India, the objects discussed in the Civics textbook—Parliament, citizenship, etc.—were assumed to be byproducts of the successful fight for national independence from the imperial yoke of the British. Citizenship, then, was something that we automatically possessed as Indians, something that we knew intimately and intuitively or at least were meant to know so. In the many years since having to reluctantly memorize the contents of that textbook as a school student, I have routinely come across the same assumption: overzealous television anchors and holier-than-thou celebrities exhorting Indians to do their duty as citizens; Indian elites grousing about the fact that other Indians lack a culture of citizenship; or assorted groups from privileged majorities to disenfranchised minorities claiming that they have been treated as second-class citizens by the Indian state.
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