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Destruction as Rule: Containment, Censuring and Confusion in Pakistani Balochistan



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Ahmad, Mahvish 


This dissertation explores the contour and content of state-ordered destruction in the construction of state, territory, and subjects. To do so, it carries out a historical and ethnographic study of state violence, from the colonial era until today, in Pakistan’s southern province of Balochistan. Through this study, the dissertation argues: Where the construction of state, territory, and subjects requires a rendering of society as legible in order to create it and make it manipulable for the purposes of rule, the destruction of politics, places and peoples requires a rendering of networks opposing the state as obscure in order to dismantle them and make them docile for the same purpose. These networks, or “counter-societies,” are collective identities that transgress and resist the state’s version of society proper, e.g. through the collective identities of the anti-colonial rebel, the revolutionary communist, or the separatist ethnonationalist. In turn, society proper is constituted by state-sanctioned identities considered necessary for rule, like the “tribal” colonial subject or the loyal and growth-minded Pakistani citizen. Through a close reading of three cases of state violence in the colonial, early post-colonial, and contemporary era–a 1918 colonial-era military expedition, a 1973-’77 counterinsurgency campaign, and post-9/11 displacements, disappearances, killings, and army raids–the dissertation argues that the state sought to contain the “infection” of “fanaticism” in the colonial era, censure alternative ideas of Pakistan as socialist and multi-national in the early post-colonial era, and confuse attempts to articulate a counter-hegemonic front against the violence of the state in the contemporary era.





Desai, Manali
Navaro, Yael


Balochistan, Pakistan, South Asia, violence, state, sovereignty, citizenship, political subjectivity, hegemony, counter-hegemony, colonial violence, British India, indirect rule, colonialism, post-colonial violence, counter-insurgency, Cold War, communism, National Awami Party, Baloch Popular Liberation Front, Pararis, Jabbal, confusion, opacity, destruction, censorship, containment, illegibility, legibility


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Research for this thesis has been sponsored by: - Cambridge Political Economy Society Trust - Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge - The Cambridge Commonwealth, European & International Trust