March 31, 2025 | 9:30am - 5:30pm
Weiser Hall, Room 1010
The city and the countryside in Pakistan are crucial analytics for understanding the making of Pakistan and its post-independence trajectory, particularly in the aftermath of David Gilmartin’s Empire and Islam. In that work, Gilmartin argued that the success of the movement for Pakistan in Punjab rested on the creation and propagation of a universal Muslim identity in and from cities above hierarchical, “mediated” forms of Islam in the countryside. Importantly, like Raymond Williams’ The Country and The City, Gilmartin shows that subjectivities, practices, and institutions associated with both “modern” cities and “backward” rural spaces were produced under colonial rule by imperatives of colonial governance, social and cultural change, and politics. More recently, historians have argued that social forms and agricultural practices in rural colonial Punjab were not timeless residues but actively produced through the encounter between idioms of kinship and those of political economy. Further, historical studies have shown how rural spaces were reconfigured, reconceptualized, and reimagined through urban concepts and paradigms in the colonial period. Engaging with this scholarship’s problematizing of center and periphery, the 12th U-M Pakistan Conference will explore the productive tension and constitutive relationship between the countryside and the city in Pakistan’s past and present.
Bringing together scholars researching Pakistan’s diverse rural and urban contexts spanning its different regions, this conference explores the interrelationship between the urban and the rural by centering marginalized and minoritized people’s struggles for rights, and by unpacking the structures of feeling and moral economies which continue to frame their articulations of alternative political imaginaries, and strategies of claim-making. We will examine the role played by kinship, domesticity, religion, institutional and technological change, and everyday practices of governance that mediate people’s experiences and mobility across the rural-urban continuum. Further, we map this continuum across contested borders, landscapes, vernaculars, and regions that constitute contemporary Pakistan.
Problematizing the ahistorical dichotomy between urban and rural spaces and their constellation of associated meanings, this conference will investigate how they were historically produced, rethought, and challenged through political contestation, legislative change, grassroots activism, and developmentalist desires. We ask: How was the Pakistani countryside subject and agent in its history, and not just an object of the state and institutions? How can we challenge binaries like center/periphery, subject/object, modern/pre-modern, capitalist/pre-capitalist, worker/peasant, and modernity/tradition? What has been the relationship between rural and urban areas in Pakistan, and how have both been sites of change and continuity? In what ways do rural practices, ideologies, and life-worlds reshape and transform urban spaces, imaginaries, and subjectivities, and vice-versa? How do we destabilize the rural-urban binary to reveal the inadequacy of these categories in capturing complex processes of socio-cultural, political, economic, and ecological change? In other words, what analytical and theoretical tools do we need to recognize modernity in and challenge the binary of both countryside and city?
This conference is cosponsored by the Department of History, The Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, Center for South Asian Studies, Asian Languages and Cultures, Institute for the Humanities, Women’s and Gender Studies, Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG), Global Islamic Studies Center, College of LSA, Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, Middle East Studies, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, American Culture, Arab and Muslim American Studies, Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies, History of Art, Rackham Graduate School, and the American Institute of Pakistan Studies.
9:30am - Breakfast
10:00am - 10:15am
Welcome and Opening Remarks
10:15am - 11am: Atiyab Sultan (Career Civil Servant, Pakistan Administrative Service)
Building State Capacity for Research: The Changing Role of Administrators in the Punjab
11am - 11:45am: Shozab Raza (Postdoctoral Associate, Yale University)
Conjugated Universalism: From Rural Pakistan to ‘Worker-Peasant Rule’
11:45am - 1:30pm: Lunch
1:30pm - 2:30pm: Natasha Raheja (Assistant Professor, Cornell University)
Visualizing the Thar Desert Borderlands through Film
Short Film Screening: A Gregarious Species, and Kitne Passports?
2:30pm - 2:45pm Coffee Break
2:45pm - 3:30pm: Mubbashir Rizvi (Professorial Lecturer, American University)
The New Subzi Mandi: Urban relocation and the Outsourcing of Informality
3:30pm - 4:15pm: Ghazal Asif Farrukhi (Assistant Professor, Lahore University of Management Sciences)
Does the 0.99 Percent Count? Fractional Minorities and the National Census in Pakistan
4:15pm - 4:30pm: Coffee Break
4:30pm - 5:30pm: Keynote and Roundtable Discussion,
David Gilmartin (Professor, North Carolina State University)