Development, not mainstreaming

Mainstreaming, in other words, is not entirely a very positive or pro-social process

Dr Raza Khan June 25, 2018
Tribal areas. PHOTO: REUTERS

We often hear the term mainstreaming in contemporary public discourse in Pakistan. Most often the term mainstreaming is used for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), Balochistan and other remote regions of the country and their residents. The idea and motive behind using the term mainstreaming in public discourse is to bring the above-mentioned regions and their inhabitants on a par with the relatively developed areas and provinces of the country. However, development is again what psychologists and linguists call a very polysemic or multi-meaning concept and it is not merely a state of infrastructure uplift but more importantly a state of mental and behavioural sophistication. Against this backdrop, it is very difficult to dub most of Pakistan developed.

Harking back to the concept of mainstreaming, the term could be construed as similarity of facets and values, the idea of importance and unimportance of social behaviours, which are cultivated through extensive social contact and interaction (including through media). Extensive social contact with the developed areas and their residents may squeeze or even override variant perspective or idiosyncrasies and behaviours which ordinarily originate from other factors or influences like individual or cultural differences or socialisation. However, such an experience and plurality of viewpoints is far better for society and its members than mainstreaming or homogenisation.

Mainstreaming is a scientific concept and the underlying hypothesis of mainstreaming is that differences of demographics, pyschographics, political ideologies and socio-economic differences have quite less impact on the attitude and convictions of those who have extensive social contact with the developed areas and people. Most cultures consist of disparate elements nevertheless in each culture there is a dominant set of attitudes, beliefs, values and customs. Perhaps these elements also define and shape national characteristics which have their origin in the shared culture. It must be noted that the dominant current within a culture is not simply the aggregation of all the cross-currents and sub currents. Sociologically speaking the dominant culture cannot be the sum total of the subcultures and counter-cultures which it contains. In fact, the dominant cultural current is the most ubiquitous, functional and stable mainstream. In general terms it has so compelling influence on the lives of people that they cannot simply escape without getting influenced by it.

Thus the dominant cultural current represents the widest aspect of shared meanings and suppositions. Consequently, it is the dominant current which in the final analysis defines all the cross-currents and sub currents.

Thus mainstreaming stands for relative homogenisation, as a pool where diversity of voices gets neutralised and above all visible. So mainstreaming, in other words, is not entirely a very positive or pro-social process. There are negative aspects of mainstreaming. By mainstreaming most people mean and it is expected that the remote and underdeveloped parts of a country and their people are so subsumed in the national and social life that they look similar and there is generic homogenisation. However, this is only positive when overall society and the state are also at a high developmental stage if compared with the most developed state and societies of the world.

Against the backdrop of the above-mentioned discussion, we may try to develop Fata, Balochistan and other remote parts of the country but mainstreaming them would not serve any purpose as the overall state of development in the state and society leaves a lot to be desired.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2018.

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