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.

Course Calendar

Week 1: Pakistan in Global Wars and Local Struggles

Aug 25, Thu

Introduction; Reading strategies

Week 2:  Colonial and Postcolonial Partitions in South Asia

Aug 30, Tue

Bose, Sugata and Ayesha Jalal. 1998. Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy. pp 165-189. Routledge.

Eaton, Richard, ed. 2003. “Introduction” in India' s Islamic Traditions, 711-1750. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Visweswaran, Kamala. 2011. “Introduction” in Perspectives on South Asia: A Reader in Culture, History, and Representation”. p 1-10. Wiley-Blackwell.

Sep 1, Thu

Gilmartin, David. 1998. “Partition, Pakistan, and South Asian History: In Search of a Narrative”. The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 57, No. 4, pp. 1068-1095.

Alavi, H. 2003. “Social Forces and Ideology in the Making of Pakistan” in Continuity and Change: Socio-Political and Institutional Dynamics in Pakistan. Akbar Zaidi, ed. Karachi: City Press. Pp. 11-40.

Chaturvedi, Anshul. 2011. “There’s a Pakistan beyond the ISI and Terror: Wish it was Stronger.” Times of India.

Short Story:  Manto, Saadat Hasan. 1948. “Toba Tek Singh.”

Zamindar, Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali. 2007. “Introduction” in The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories. New York: Columbia University Press.

Week 3: “An Army with a Country”

Sep 6, Tue

Jalal, Ayesha. 1990. The State of Martial Rule: The Political Economy of Defence in Pakistan. p 49-56, 125-128. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Siddiqa, Ayesha. 2007. “Introduction” in Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy. Karachi: Oxford University Press.

Saikia, Yasmin. 2011. “The Told and Untold Stories of 1971” in Women, War, and the Making of Bangladesh: Remembering 1971. p 1-33. Duke University Press.

Novel: Muhammad Hanif, “A Case of Exploding Mangoes”, Knopf, 2008. (Finish over next five weeks).

Sep 8, Thu

Zaidi, S. Akbar. 2005. “State, Military, and Social Transition: Improbable Future of Democracy in Pakistan.” Economic and Political Weekly. p 5173-5181.

Notes. “The Pakistani Lawyers’ Movement and the Popular Currency of Judicial Power.” Harvard Law Review. Volume 123: 1705-1726.

Khilji, Usama. 2008. “The Lawyers Movement in Pakistan.”

Sahi, Aun. 2009. “The Tenants’ Struggle on Okara Military Farms.” South Asia Citzens Web.

Week 4: Gender Struggles

Sep 13, Tue

Rouse, Shahnaz. 1998. “The Outsider (s) Within: Sovereignty and Citizenship in Pakistan.” Appropriating Gender: Women’s Activism and Politicized Religion in South Asia.  Patricia Jeffery and Amrita Basu, eds. New York: Routledge.

Ebrahim, Zofeen. 2008. “Pakistan – Women’s Voices now on Radio in Tribal Areas.”

Bery, Sanjeev. 2009. “Lack of Coverage on Transgendered Pakistanis shows bias in US media.” The Huffington Post. August 19. 

Saigol, Rubina. 2003. “His Rights/Her Duties: Citizen and Mother in the Civics Discourse.” Indian Journal of Gender Studies 10(3): 379-404.  

Sep 15, Thu

Coleman, Isobel. 2010. “Under the Crescent Moon: Pakistan” in Paradise beneath her Feet: How Women are Transforming the Middle East.” Random House.

Zia, Afiya. 2009. “Faith-based Politics, Enlightened Moderation and the Pakistani Women’s Movement.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 11(1): 225-245.

Jamal, Amina. 2006. “Gender, Citizenship, and the Nation-State in Pakistan: Willful Daughters or Free Citizens?” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 31(2): 283-304.

Week 5: Islam, Democracy, and Ethnic Conflict

Sep 20, Tues

Talbott, Ian. 1998. “Introduction” in Pakistan: A Modern History. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. p 1-20.

Oldenburg, Philip. 1985. “‘A Place Insufficiently Imagined’: Language, Belief, and the Pakistan Crisis of 1971. Journal of Asian Studies, 44:4.

Titus, Paul and Nina Swidler. 2001. “Knights, not Pawns: Ethno-nationalism and Regional Dynamics in Post-colonial Balochistan.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 32 (1): 47-69.

Baxter, Craig. 1971. “Pakistan Votes – 1970.” Asian Survey 11:3 197-218.

Alavi, Hamza. 1988. “Pakistan and Islam: Ethnicity and Ideology” in State and Ideology in the Middle East and Pakistan, edited by Hamza Alavi and Fred Halliday, 65-111. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Sep 22, Thu

Verkaaik, Oskar. 2001. “The Captive State: Corruption, the Intelligence Agencies, and Ethnicity in Pakistan” in States of Imagination: Ethnographic Explorations of the Postcolonial State. Duke University Press.

Nasr, Vali. 2000. “International Politics, Domestic Imperatives, and Identity Mobilization: Sectarianism in Pakistan, 1979-1998. Comparative Politics, Vol. 32, No. 2., pp. 171-190.

Saeed, S. 2007. “Pakistani Nationalism and the State Marginalisation of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan.” Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 7:132–152.

Wright, Theodore P. 1991. “Center-Periphery Relations and Ethnic Conflict in Pakistan: Sindhis, Muhajirs, and Punjabis”. Comparative Politics, Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 299-312.

Gul Khattak, S. 2003. “In/Security: Afghan Refugees and Politics in Pakistan.” Critical Asian Studies 35 (2): 195- 208.

Week 6: Stories of Development

Sep 27, Tue

Abidi-Habib, Mehjabeen and Anna Lawrence. 2007. “Revolt and Remember: How the Shimshal Nature Trust Develops and Sustains Social-Ecological Resilience in Northern Pakistan.” Ecology and Society 12(2): 35.             

Hasan, Arif. 2006. “Orangi Pilot Project: the expansion of work beyond Orangi and the mapping of informal settlements and infrastructure.” Environment and Urbanization 18(2): 451-480. 

Hasan, Arif. 2009. “The New Urban Development Paradigm and Civil Society Responses in Karachi” in The Unplanned Revolution: Observations on the Processes of Socio-Economic Change in Pakistan. Karachi: Oxford University Press.


Sep 29, Thu

Altaf, Samia. 2011. So Much Aid, So Little Development: Stories form Pakistan. “Introduction” and “The UNICEF and UNDP Workshop.” Woodrow Wilson Center Press.

Documentary: Pakistan’s Charitable Movement – The Citizens Foundation.

Guest Lecture: Irum Musharraf, Naya Jeevan (New Life) – non-profit focused on healthcare in Pakistan.

Week 7: Class and Border Tensions 

Oct 4, Tue

Ali, Kamran Asdar. 2010. “The Strength of the Street meets the Strength of the State: The 1972 Labor Struggle in Karachi” in Beyond Crisis: Re-evaluating Pakistan. Naveeda Khan, ed. Routledge.

Gardezi, Hassan N. 1992. “Religion, Ethnicity, and State Power in Pakistan: The Question of Class” in Religion and Political Conflict in South Asia:  India Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Douglas Allen, ed.. Westport, CT.: Greenwood Press.

Akbar Zaidi, S. 2005. “Structural Adjustment Programmes in Pakistan” in Issues in Pakistan’s Economy. OUP. pp. 336-358.

Abou-Zahab, Mariam. 2004. “The Sunni-Shia Conflict in Jhang, Pakistan” in Lived Islam in South Asia: Adaptations, Accommodation, and Conflict. I. Ahmad and H. Reifeld (eds.). Delhi: Social Science Press.  

Oct 6, Thur

Peer, Basharat. 2010. “Kashmir’s Forever War.” Granta 112: Pakistan.

Kak, Sanjay, ed. 2011. “’I protest’”, “Islamism’s Bogey” and “Letter to Fellow Kashmiris” in Until my Freedom has Come. Penguin Books. 

Kreutzmann, H. “Kashmir and the Northern Areas of Pakistan: Boundary-making along Contested Frontiers.” Erdkunde 62(3): 201-219.

Rai, Mridu. 2004. Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects. Chapter 2. Princeton University Press.

Haroon, Sana. 2007. “Confronting the Nation: 1930-1950” in Frontier of Faith: Islam in the Indo-Afghan Borderland. Columbia University Press.

Edwards, David. 2006. “Mad Mullahs and Englishmen: Discourse in the Colonial Encounter” in States of Violence. Fernando Coronil and Julie Skurski, eds. University of Michigan Press.

Week 8: Literary and Artistic Landscapes

Oct 11, Tue

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


Oct 13, Thu

Faiz, Faiz Ahmed. 1995. Selections from The Rebel's Silhouette: Selected Poems (Translated by Agha Shahid Ali). University of Massachusetts Press.

Arif, Iftikhar and Waqas Khwaja. 2010. Selections from Modern Poetry of Pakistan. Dalkey Archive Press.

Ali, Nosheen. 2012 (Forthcoming). “Poetry, Power, Protest: Rethinking Muslim Nationhood in Northern Pakistan” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Dadi, Iftikhar. 2010. “Introduction” in Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia. University of North Carolina Press.

Ali, Kamran Asdar. 2011. “Progressives and ‘Perverts’: Partition Stories and Pakistan’s Future.” Social Text 108 (29):3.            


Week 9: Mid-Term and Film

Oct 18, Tue

(in class)

Oct 20, Thu

Film: Khuda Ke Liyay (In the name of God).

Week 10: Experience and Everyday Life

Oct 25, Tue

Marsden, Magnus. 2005. “Introduction” in Living Islam: Muslim Religious Experience in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ahmad, Sadaf. 2009. “The World of the Dars” in Transforming Faith: The Story of Al-Huda and Islamic Revivalism among Urban Pakistani Women. Syracuse University Press.

Oct 27, Thu

Marsden, Magnus. 2005. “The Play of the Mind: Debating Village Muslims” in Living Islam: Muslim Religious Experience in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kurin, Richard. 1986. “Islamization: A view from the countryside” in Islamic Reassertion in Pakistan: The Application of Islamic Laws in a Modern State, A Weiss (ed.), 1986, pp 115–28.

Barth, F. 1969. “Pathan identity and its maintenance” in Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social organization of Cultural Difference. London: George Allen & Unwin.

Week 11:  Experience and Everyday Life II

Nov 1, Tue

Albinia, Alice. 2008. “River Saints” in Empires of the Indus. London: John Murray. 

Short Story: Mueenuddin, Daniyal. “Nawabdin Electrician”, The New Yorker, August 27, 2007.

Ewing, Katherine. 1983. “The Politics of Sufism: Redefining the Saints of Pakistan”. Journal of Asian Studies 42:2.

Wolf, Richard K. 2006. “The Poetics of ‘Sufi’ Practice: Drumming, Dancing, and Complex Agency at Madho Lal Husain (and beyond).” American Ethnologist 33 (2): 246-268.

Nov 3, Thu

Parkes, P. 1996. “Indigenous polo and the politics of regional identity in northern Pakistan” in Sport, Identity and Ethnicity. J. MacClancy (ed.) Oxford: Berg.

Halvorson, Sarah. 2003. “‘Placing’ Health Risks in the Karakoram: Local Perceptions of Disease, Dependency, and Social Change in Northern Pakistan.” Mountain Research and Development 23(3): 271-77.

Week 12: The Long War: Perils of Foreign Policy

Nov 8, Tue

Davis, C. 2000. “‘A’ Is for allah, ‘J’ Is for jihad.” World Policy Journal. pp 90–94.

Mamdani, Mahmood. 2002. “Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: A Political Perspective on Culture and Terrorism”. American Anthropologist 104(3): 766-775.  

Nov 10, Thu

Montgomery, Charles. 2008. “The Archipelago of Fear: Are Fortification and Foreign Aid Making Kabul more dangerous?”  The Walrus.

Hayden, Tom. 2009. “Understanding the long war”, The Nation, 7 May 2009.

Turse, Nick. 2010. “Army digs in for the long haul in Afghanistan.” Salon, October 22, 2010.

Johnson, Chalmers. 2004. “The Empire of Bases” in The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic. Metropolitan Books.

Week 13: The Long War II: Narratives of the Conflict Zone

Nov 15, Tue

Tahir, Madiha. 2009. “Chaos Theory: How Pakistan was cast as a Failed State.” Columbia Journalism Review.

A Cockcroft et al. 2009. “Challenging the myths about madaris in Pakistan: A national household survey of enrolment and reasons for choosing religious schools.” International Journal of Educational Development, 29, pp 342-349.

Ahmed, Manan. 2011. “Strangers in the Night” and “Legends of the Fail” in Where the Wild Frontiers Are: Pakistan and the American Imagination. Just World Books.

Nov 17, Thu

Ramdas, Kavita. 2010 “Violence against women is no rationale for military violence.” The Huffington Post.

Ali, Nosheen. 2010. “Books vs. Bombs? Humanitarian Development and the Narrative of Terror in Northern Pakistan.” Third World Quarterly 31(4): 541-559.

Hessler, Peter. 2011. “What Mortenson got wrong.” The New Yorker.

SIGN UP for In-class Presentations on Final Paper (for Nov 29 or Dec 1)

Gonzalez, Roberto J.  2009. American Counterinsurgency: Human Science and the Human Terrain. Chapters on “The Myth of a ‘Gentler’ Counterinsurgency” and “The Origins of Human Terrain.”

Week 14: Drones and Democracy

Nov 22, Tue

Fair, Christine. 2010. “Drones over Pakistan – Menace or Best Viable Option?” The Huffington Post.

Smith, Grame. 2010.  “Pakistan's deadly robots in the sky” Globe and Mail, October 1.

Ahmad, Muhammad Idrees. 2011. “Fighting back against the CIA drone war.”

Kathy, Kelly and Joshua Brollier. 2010. “Drones and Democracy.” Huffington Post.

Nov 24, Thu


Week 15:  The Current Moment

Nov 29, Tue

Akbar, Malik Siraj. 2011. “The First Night of Torture” in The Redefined Dimensions of Baloch Nationalist Movement. Xlibris, Corp.

Taseer, Shehrbano. 2011. “My father died for Pakistan” in The New York Times, January 8.

Dec 1, Thu

Saeed, Shahid. 2011. “Grab the Reins of Power.”

Ahmed, Manan. 2011. “Why the U.S. must think outside the ‘military’ box.” The National.

Student Presentations on Final Paper


  1. How much more could I have learnt about the country I'm living in and living with than after taking this 15 weeks course with you. Pray help these Pakistani educationists design a Pakistan Study course for Pakistani students.

  2. Nosheen,
    Thanks for sharing this. Looks like a great class. A topic I think you should cover is "Provincial Differences and Tensions." Its so central to Pakistan today and of current interest because of the 18th Amendment. Reehana

  3. Thanks Reehana! The center-province dynamic was discussed at length in our class during the week titled "Islam, Democracy and Ethnic conflict" and esp when we focused on Bangladesh. But you are right to point out that a more contemporary focus on provincial tensions e.g. through a discussion of 18th amendment would be of much value. So much to cover, such little time :)

  4. Extremely useful for any one teaching Pakistan. I feel Islam, Democracy and Ethnic Conflict need to be in two units

  5. Hey Nosheen. Most interested in finding out how the Gender Struggles week went. Please share?

  6. it was heated for sure, and perhaps one of the best weeks. our focus was on how "woman's honor" has been a constant site for making claims about a so-called "islamic" nationalism in pakistan, from zia's hudood laws to the media trial of veena malik. we also discussed the forms and challenges of feminist and transgendered organizing in pakistan, how these challenges differ depending on the regional context (e.g. FATA vs the cities), and how successes in these realms are little-recognized in international media. we also discussed the contradictions of "enlightened moderation" under musharraf - afiya zia's reading was very useful in this regard. finally, tehrik-e-niswan's documentary called "i am a woman" offered a wonderful means to connect berkeley to karachi, through the influence of the flower power movement and street theatre.

  7. Looks like a great class. Would you happen to have scanned copies of some of the readings? The books would be impossible to find here in Singapore.


  8. Hey Adil, I have scanned copies of most of the readings. Email me at and I'll send them your way!

  9. It's very heartening to see such a comprehensive course being offered on Pakistan in a 21st century context. I particularly like how many of your selected texts and recommended readings focus on social, ethical and political issues, often from the perspective of Pakistanis themselves- hence the appropriateness of the course title!
    I feel that far too often, courses on Pakistan (and South Asia in general) take a very laid-back, cold, "this-is-history" approach, that does not fully communicate the scope and complexity behind our troubled home.

    As a student leader from the days under Emergency and Musharraf's short-lived martial law, I'm also proud to see our movement has stuck such a chord outside of Pakistan as well.

    Speaking of the movement, here is a link to a student-run blog that operated during the key days of the Emergency:

    I think it would be fantastic if, in the future, students were made to read blog posts from at least a few key events (such as major protests, exposing political scandals, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, etc).

    Also, here is a report compiled by several Harvard Law students who actually participated with many of us during the Long March, as part of their effort to understand and chronicle the movement:

    Might I also suggest asking your students to refer to certain Pakistan-centric blogs as part of the daily prep for in-class discussions?

    Here is one that I've always liked: www.

    I hope this course becomes a template for changing attitudes towards Pakistan- especially within the country itself!

  10. thanks for the encouragement kamil! the harvard law review report you mention is already in the syllabus, under week 3 :)