Political Kinship: The State and Culture in Contemporary Pakistan by Professor Stephen Lyon on Friday 1 February 2019 at the Aga Khan University, Pakistan:
In this talk, Professor Lyon examines the role of highly politicised kinship practices that have shaped the country from rural agricultural villages to the highest legislative and executive branches of government and the military. He looks at how ideal models of patrilineal affiliation define and guide expected patterns of factional loyalties and the ways that individuals and the households in which they exist try to manipulate these defined expectations to their own advantage. Understanding the patterns and logic of factional alliances at the level of the village can shed light on the factions that emerge at party political level and even, he suggests, at the international level. At all levels of politics, Pakistani gamesmanship and risk taking can be understood as an instance of dispute management shaped by the same underlying logic that drive and constrain local land disputes in rural areas. The gap between ruled and rulers alongside the absence of a coherent set of nation building tools, has come to be occupied by alternative networks of resource distribution and social replication. Over the course of rotating elites in India and what later became Pakistan and Bangladesh, kinship has served to undermine and circumvent both the authority and the legitimacy of the various forms of state that have emerged in the Sub Continent. While focussing very firmly on what has come to be modern day Pakistan, this argument is pertinent for a broader examination of regional politics elsewhere in South Asia and part of the rationale is to develop a more sympathetic appreciation of how and why individuals might contribute to building up social institutions and structures that fundamentally weaken and possibly even damage state institutions.
SpeakerStephen Lyon: Professor of Anthropology and the Head of Educational Programmes at the Aga Khan University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations in London. Before joining AKU-ISMC, he was Professor of Anthropology at Durham University, UK. He has carried out field research in rural and urban Pakistan for more than 20 years and among Pakistani diaspora populations in Britain, Greece and Japan. He has published widely on conflict management, kinship, agriculture and social networks.