December 29, 2011

The poets we remember, the poets we forget

This year marks the 100th birth anniversary of Pakistan’s most beloved, progressive poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Several events have been organized around the world to pay tribute to his rich poetic vision. Interestingly, this year is the 100th birth anniversary of another brilliant Pakistani poet, Ustad Daman, who happened to be a mentor of Faiz and was much revered by him. In fact, Daman also died the same year as Faiz - barely 13 days after Faiz’s own death in 1984.  They shared their time of birth, their time of death, and a lifetime of poetic comradeship.  While Faiz was unparalleled in his sensuously transformative poetry and surely needs to be celebrated, it is worth asking why poets like Daman remain unremembered in the Pakistani imagination.

December 5, 2011

Teaching Pakistan

I just finished teaching a senior-level undergrad course titled “Re-imagining Pakistan” at UC Berkeley. The course was both fun and challenging to put together, and thankfully, I was blessed with the most wonderful students who engaged enthusiastically with the material. Some students took the course because they are of Pakistani origin; others because “Pakistan is so important and we don’t know much about it.” Given that the US is currently fighting a war in Pakistan’s borderlands, and that Pakistan has been central to US interventions in South Asia, it is unfortunate that so little is taught about Pakistan in American universities. Here, I provide the course syllabus as well as the videos that I used to supplement class discussion, hoping that these might aid other efforts at teaching/understanding Pakistan. If you draw upon this course as a resource, or have feedback to share, please do let me know - I'd love to learn more and discuss.

Videos used in class (in part or whole):

Disposable Ally

Glimpse of Lawyer's Movement

Veena Malik vs. Mufti Sahb

Mukhtar Mai: A Pakistani Woman Seeks Justice After Gang Rape

I am a Woman - a documentary on Tehrik-e-Niswan

Rise of the Oppressed

Jugni, Arif Lohar & Meesha, Coke Studio, Season 3

The Cartoons Pakistani TV was afraid to show

Shandur Polo Festival

American Tax dollars at War

Missing in Pakistan

Pakistan: The New Radicals

BBC interview with the victim of a drone attack:

Course Syllabus: Re-imagining Pakistan


Pakistan is the second largest Muslim nation and the sixth most populous country in the world. Entangled in multiple political, economic, and social conflicts, the citizens of the country are likewise engaged in multiple struggles for re-imagining, resistance, and survival.  This course will situate Pakistan in the context of modern South Asia, and examine its diverse struggles and life-worlds from a historical, ethnographic, and literary perspective. It will cover topics such as the political economy of militarism, rural everyday life, development visions, poetic imaginings, Islamist politics, terrorism, and gender activism. Apart from enriching students' understandings of a critical country in South Asia, the course will also unpack some of the simplifications about Pakistan that tend to dominate Western media discourses. 


Apart from selected articles that are provided online and in a reader, the following text is required for this course and may be found at the bookstore: 

Hanif, Muhammad. 2008. A Case of Exploding Mangoes. Knopf.