Book review: Pakistani Women - Multiple Locations and Competing Narratives

Published: December 19, 2011
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The theoretical and ethnographic studies included in this volume make meaningful contributions to authentic knowledge.

The theoretical and ethnographic studies included in this volume make meaningful contributions to authentic knowledge.

Scholarship on Pakistani women often ends up portraying them as a homogenous, powerless group living under the oppression of patriarchal and religious hegemony. The complexity, socio-economic context and the ‘lived’ reality of their experiences is often ignored. While this approach neatly dovetails with the grand western narratives of Third World women, the women themselves are reduced to cardboard cutouts of their real selves.

Pakistani Women: Multiple Locations and Competing Narratives attempts to break the mould — academics and activists go beyond the documented lives of Pakistani women in a collection of ten essays. From home-based workers to travelling singers and actresses and housewives, scholars present the fascinating heterogeneity of women of Pakistani origin. From the walled city of Lahore to the villages of Punjab and Sindh, from East London to the North of Pakistan, these essays deconstruct power structures, examine traditional roles, and underscore critical differences among women in different communities.

Of particular interest is the discussion by Aminah Jamal and Shahnaz Khan on the zina ordinance and how a patriarchal society shapes ideals of feminine behaviour as symbols of a nation’s honour.

Summing it all neatly is Shahla Haeri concluding essay which incisively explains why Pakistani women, along with other Muslim women, have been represented the way they have been in history, media and western academia.

The theoretical and ethnographic studies included in this volume make meaningful contributions to authentic knowledge about Pakistani women, and will certainly help in changing the stereotypical image represented in much of western feminist discourse and popular media.  The feminist practice at producing knowledge locally on the levels of theory, pedagogy and textual creativity is a huge step forward and will help redefine the concept of a Pakistani woman.

Published in The Express Tribune, December Sunday Magazine, 18th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (3)

  • Dec 20, 2011 - 8:50AM

    This is an excellent collection of anthropological studies. I liked this idea a lot when i was approached to be a contributor to this collection. Here i would like to mention that Sadaf Ahmad, the editor of this anthology and in charge of anthropology Dept. at LUMS, has also written TRANSFORMING FAITH. This is published by Syracuse University and reproduced by Oxford University Press for Pakistan. TRANSFORMING FAITH has transformed my perspective about the women within the religious movements the gaps in communication and understanding that polarized our society into categories of so called ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’. I strongly recommend our young men and women to read that book.

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  • Mazhar Farid
    Jan 13, 2012 - 2:50PM

    Few people in the world intellectually grow very fast like Aqsa Mirza, who has proven herself. Writing a book review is an art and there very few book reviewers in the world who attracts the reader. This book review is one of them. I wish him a great success in both physically as well as intellectually.

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  • ali
    Jan 19, 2012 - 10:30AM

    Great book to read. Recommend

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