Presidential Beyond Nation: Intellectual Genealogies of Pakistan

AHA Session 226
Sunday, January 9, 2011: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM
Room 207 (Hynes Convention Center)
Sandria Freitag, North Carolina State University
Sandria Freitag, North Carolina State University

Session Abstract

The history of the creation of Pakistan in 1947 has been the subject of considerable study.  As is widely known, Pakistan’s formation came about with the partitioning of British India into two states at the time of Britain’s departure and was accomplished amidst widespread violence.  But the narrative of Pakistan’s creation remains the subject of considerable debate.   As many historians have argued, the demand for the creation of a Muslim state was shaped in the decades before partition by the pressures of new colonial constructions of religious community (with roots going back to the 19th century) and by the dynamics of mass mobilizations associated with the development of Indian nationalism.  Pakistan’s creation has been read by some in light of larger shifts in Islamic thinking globally, and by others in terms of the tensions between notions of Islamic community and the immediate pressures of local and regional politics in India.   This panel seeks to recover some of the varied, little explored intellectual genealogies of the idea of Pakistan in British India.  It seeks to do so by going back to the new constructions of history, new forms of organization, and new structures of politics shaping Muslim ideas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The aim is not to reinterpret these histories in terms of a teleological narrative in which all roads lead to Pakistan (a name for a Muslim state that was not, in fact, coined until the 1930s).  The aim of the panel is rather to put the complexity of new ideas on state and community among Muslims in India into the plurality of their immediate contexts.  In doing so, the panel seeks to analyze the complex debates among Muslims that defined the multiple possibilities—and multiple ideas—on the relationship of state and community, well beyond the concept simply of “nation,” out of which the demand for a Muslim state ultimately emerged.

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