Anticolonialism, Nationalism, and State Formation: The Rise of Pakistan
Tirmizey, Kasim Ali
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There is ongoing popular and scholarly debate about the rise of Pakistan as a nation-state. Much of this literature frames the emergence either in cultural terms as a territorial expression of transhistorical Muslim nationhood, or in a liberal framing as the outcome of the political mobilization of the Muslim community against Hindu domination. This dissertation makes a corrective by examining the constitutive role of radical anticolonialism in the rise of Pakistan, with a focus on the province of Punjab in British India from 1880 to 1947. I argue that the formation of the Pakistani nation-state entailed the condensation of multiple political struggles over rescaling empire. Muslim nationalism reified struggles over land, food, womens bodies, and access to the colonial state as ethnic struggles between Muslims and Hindus, thus codifying class, caste and religion in essentialist terms. Despite popular energies of agrarian classes against Hindu Bania (moneylender caste) were redirected into radical anticolonialism by the Ghadar Party in the 1910s, the demand for Pakistan subsequently shifted the scale of anti-Bania antagonisms among agrarian classes onto claims for a Muslim national space. The materialization of a Muslim national space (Pakistan) and Hindu national space (India) cannot be understood in the absence of the repression of radical anticolonial movements such as the Ghadar Party, the Kirti Kisan Party, and communist organizing. When Muslim landlords foresaw that independence was inevitable and joined the Pakistan movement, those formerly associated with the Unionist Party projected their pro-landlord and pro-imperialist politics within a framework of Muslim nationalism defined by the Muslim League. The false character of decolonization in British India amounted to a passive revolution which restored and modernized imperial rule by reorganizing social hierarchies, structures of domination, and scales. This dissertation denaturalizes the scale of the nation by arguing how it is not some pre-given or transhistorical entity, but its emergence in the case of Pakistan was the outcome of the balance of forces between radical anticolonial initiatives and their repression and absorption into a restored imperial order. Passive revolution entails rescaling processes that reconfigure the vertical relationship among household, village, nation, and empire.