American University
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Pakistanizing Pashtun: The linguistic and cultural disruption and re-invention of Pashtun

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posted on 2023-09-06, 02:39 authored by M. Taimur S. Khan

This dissertation explores how the Pakistani nationalist project and state making practices disrupt Pashtun culture and Pashto language, and how Pashtun respond to these cultural and linguistic disruptions. Focusing on two indigenous Pashtun areas in Pakistan, namely Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Swat, this research draws from thirty-two in-depth interviews and data collected from over a hundred Pashtun users of social networking sites. This study demonstrates the following: (1) Pakistani state uses educational institutions and electronic media as sites to deny Pashtun their language and culture in order to construct an Urdu language based Pakistani national identity; (2) Pakistani state uses the rural-urban divide as a means to encapsulate indigenous Pashtun homeland and disrupt Pashtun’s traditional social, cultural, and economic practices; (3) Pakistani state imposes a normative state-sanctioned temporality that erases Pashtun’s pre-Islamic and secular past in an attempt to construct the Muslim based Pakistani identity. Ultimately, this project argues that despite being pressured by the state to identify with the larger Pakistani identity that preys upon their ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage, Pashtun of Pakistan have managed to preserve their linguistic and cultural traditions by redefining and reinventing their cultural institutions and practices to find continuity in the face of unprecedented disruptions caused by the intrusion of, and contact with, the Pakistani state. In short this dissertation foregrounds the asymmetrical relations of power between Pashtun and the Pakistani state at multiple points of contact. By doing so, it aims to dislodge the assimilationist discourse that disguises and obscures the oppression of Pashtun at the hands of the state and to call for a transcultural investigation that focuses on the disruptions and reinventions of Pashtun in their struggle from a position of disadvantage against the state and its enormous institutional resources that deny Pashtun their culture, language, and traditional socioeconomic way of life in the name of assimilating them into the mainstream Pakistani society.







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