In this article I ask what it means to turn to scholarly analysis to understand better the historical lineages of an urgent contemporary political situation. I first wrote on Kashmir in a journalistic fashion because I was appalled by the militarization and routine suspension of civil rights that I saw when I went there in 2003. Since then I have been thinking of analytical frames in which to provide a longer history for the political mess I observed and continue to observe, which leads me to read in the “field“ in order to understand issues as they developed before 1989—when militancy in Kashmir broke out. What limits on my understanding are put in place by my early writing, which was motivated by sorrow and anger, rather than by the criteria that we expect motivates historical analysis? What kinds of insight are enabled by that same beginning?
Writing about Kashmir Today
Dissent, gender, and militarization among young people in Kashmir
Thomas van der Molen and Ellen Bal
In this article, we reflect on the gendered contours of young Kashmiris’ dissident practices against the Indian military occupation of the Kashmir Valley. It is largely based on ethnographic research that coincided with the launch of an ongoing, predominantly nonviolent people’s movement in which youth have played a prominent role. The article shows how university students’ and young professionals’ “small activism” is entangled in the gendered dynamics of militarization and dissent, while underlining the threat posed by “security forces” to women’s “honor” and “dignity.” In the context of widespread societal anxiety about “dishonor,” young Kashmiris’ urge to reclaim dignity at once motivates them to practice dissent and narrows the scope for female dissidents’ capacity to act upon this drive overtly. The present case suggests that recent anthropological interest in global youth cultural practices may be supplemented with a recognition of local constraints on young people’s public opposition that arise in circumstances of (gendered) state oppression.
Intensive Transnationalism among Pakistanis in Denmark
Analyzing the period of 'intensive transnationalism' among Pakistani migrants in Denmark precipitated by the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, this article explores the relationship between events and effects on a global scale. One significant initiative after the disaster was the founding of an ad hoc association, Medical Doctors in Assistance to the Earthquake Victims in Pakistan, which consisted mainly of medical workers with a Pakistani background. The article discusses the wax and wane of this association and its impact in three interconnected contexts: family objectives, community dynamics, and national identity politics in Denmark. Despite the medical doctors' efforts and intentions, the outcome was framed by 9/11, which has become the major critical event of the decade—one that has supported a developing cleavage between the Danish majority and Denmark's Muslim immigrant minority.