The Political Economy of Pakistan


Pakistan is a country that, since the 1970s, has consistently been in the headlines. At that time, it gained notoriety as a conduit for drugs. Today, it is better known for its involvement in the “War on Terrorism.” The year 2014 is key in this regard, as the United States plans to pull out the bulk of its troops from Afghanistan during this year. What does this barrage of coverage actually tell us about the place, its people, and their ongoing struggles? In this course, we will examine Pakistan beyond the headlines and media coverage. Starting with its history of creation, we will look at questions of globalization (both economic and military), nationalism, class formation, and the relationship between the state and Pakistan’s various “publics,” including religious, gender, and ethnic minorities. Most particularly, our emphasis will be on the attempt to grasp the existence and potential for what some have called “Another Pakistan” through struggles for social justice and human rights and critical representational strategies. For our readings, we will draw upon a variety of materials from the humanities and social sciences, as well as films, blogs, and creative works. While the focus of this course is on a specific place—Pakistan—many of the questions raised are relevant to other contexts; e.g., the relationship between authoritarianism and the national security state, globalization and militarization, center-periphery relations both internally and externally, state and civil society relations, grassroots movements, and struggles for a more egalitarian society. Student projects may be specific to Pakistan, more theoretical than area-focused, and/or tackle some of the themes of this course in context(s) other than that of Pakistan.