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The Gendered and Sexual Politics of Excess in Nationalist Narrations of Pakistan


Since 2001, Pakistan has become a highly visible location for the US-led War on Terror. This visibility is based on, and has produced, a transnational circuit of representations of Pakistan. Pakistan is either condemned as an exceptional failure of the nation-state, or redeemed through exceptional nationalist figures of courage and resistance. Such representations have material consequences for Pakistanis, including elisions between anti-state struggles due to injustice and inequality, sectarian violence, and transnational war machines based in Pakistan.

This dissertation explores the transnational politics of class, gender, and sexuality of these representations. The tropes deployed by these narrations attempt to manage an epistemological, emotional, and material excess of lives that cannot be contained by the categorical structure of the Pakistani nation-state.

I analyze the 2012 film "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," by Mira Nair, based on Mohsin Hamid's 2007 novel; the 1998 film, "Jinnah," by Jamil Dehlavi; and the 2008 novel, A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif. "Jinnah" focuses on the partition of India in 1947. A Case of Exploding Mangoes is set in 1988 during the last days of General Zia-ul-Haq's military regime. "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" is about the attacks on New York City on September 11, 2001.

Through a methodological combination of literary and cultural studies, I situate the texts in the historical context of each moment of crisis, and examine their international circulation amongst wider representations of Pakistan. My theoretical framework is based in transnational, postcolonial, feminist of color, and queer of color scholarship. I use this scholarship to locate excess in genealogies, bodies, emotions, practices, and communities which contest nationalist narrations of Pakistan.

This dissertation is part of transnational Pakistani scholarship which tries to imagine Pakistan differently, through neither condemnation nor redemption. Such scholarship elucidates transnational politics of gender, sexuality, and class that undergird nationalist claims on the idea and space of Pakistan. Excess is a moment in the stakes and consequences of these representations are illuminated, at which one can choose to turn towards transnational, postcolonial, feminist, antiracist, and queer of color practices of responsible and responsive solidarity between communities.

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