Writing Pakistan: Literature, Nationhood, and Identity (Annual South Asia Conference - UW-Madison)

deadline for submissions: 
April 20, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Mushtaq Bilal/Binghamton University
contact email: 

Please note that I am proposing this panel for the Annual South Asian Conference at UW-Madison: https://southasiaconference.wisc.edu/

In recent years, Pakistani anglophone literature has received increasing attention both inside and outside Anglo-American academia. Works by writers like Mohsin Hamid, Kamila Shamsie, Mohammed Hanif, and Nadeem Aslam have won prestigious literary prizes and are often the subjects of doctoral dissertations and scholarly monographs. This emphasis on Pakistani anglophone literature often comes at the expense of a vast and rich body of literature produced in Urdu, the “national language” of Pakistan. Inside Pakistan, Urdu is the primary medium of literary expression as well as literary scholarship and the focus on Urdu literary production comes at the expense of literatures in the “regional languages” of Pakistan namely Balochi, Pashto, Punjabi, and Sindhi.

This panel seeks to interrogate this hierarchy by bringing together scholars working on Pakistani literatures in any of these languages. In addition, the panel seeks to explore some of the following questions: How is Pakistan as an Islamic nation imagined through literature? Is Pakistan under-imagined as a nation-state for Muslims or over-imagined as an Islamic state, which is part of the Muslim Ummah? What kind of discourse of an “Islamic nationhood” emerges out of Urdu literature and how it intersects with the idea of Pakistan? What makes a writer a “Pakistani writer?” (Muhammad Iqbal died nearly a decade before Pakistan came into existence and yet he is considered the “national poet” of Pakistan). What role do Pakistani literatures play in crafting or contesting a “national identity?” How are minorities (religious, caste, ethnic, sexual) portrayed in Pakistani literatures? While there is an ample body of literature on the 1947 partition, why is there a “narrative vacuum” in Pakistani literature with regard to the 1971 partition and the subsequent emergence of Bangladesh? What are the anxieties of Pakistani nationalism as portrayed in Pakistani anglophone and Urdu literatures?

If you are interested in presenting your work on this panel, please send me an abstract of 200-300 words at mushtaq@binghamton.edu by 20 April 2020.