Pakistan Beyond Tremors

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Thursday, May 29th, 2014 – Friday, May 30th, 2014

Thursday, May 29, 20148:00AM - 7:30PMPlease see below for details.
Friday, May 30, 20148:30AM - 5:45PMPlease see below for details.
Friday, May 30, 20146:30PM - 9:00PMPlease see below for details.
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As host to a daily onslaught of bomb-blasts, ‘honour killings’, and ‘mob’ violence, Pakistan regularly populates the pages of the international mainstream press. But these popular journalistic accounts often leave the impression that the country is embroiled in a spate of irrationality, violence and Islamic fundamentalism. Alternatively, liberal Pakistanis, if they make an appearance in the drama, are celebrated as carriers of the torch of progress, challenging the dominance of religious conservatism with their unrivalled ‘toleration’, their capitalist ‘development’, and their support for the Pakistani state’s military offensives and the broader ‘War on Terror’. This is the narrative typically delivered to the world.

Unfortunately, this is also a narrative which has not remained within the ambit of journalism. Much of recent scholarly work on Pakistan too has been guilty of reproducing a crude and overly-narrow analysis of the country and its people, an analysis (if one could call it that) which seems to be more committed to promoting US foreign policy objectives than to stimulating any serious academic inquiry. On the one hand, for instance, we have Anatol Lieven, in Pakistan: A Hard Country, declaring Pakistan to be “a highly conservative, archaic, even sometimes quite inert and somnolent mass of different societies” and, on the other, we have Stephen Cohen, in The Idea of Pakistan, inviting US intervention to awaken this slumbering nation. Invariably, much of this analysis re-Orientalizes Pakistan and views the country as overrun by ‘mad’ fundamentalists and militant Islamists, while prescribing a variant of imperialism, militarism and/or liberalism as an antidote to it.

This conference will challenge these views and will bring together scholars and students whose research moves beyond these prevailing ways to a more complex understanding of Pakistan and its people. We encourage contributions which critically interrogate the ‘War on Terror’ by placing it within the broader imperatives of US imperialism, and which question the assumption that liberalism is the ‘natural’ antidote to fundamentalism. We also invite papers which seek to go beyond popular analysis of religious violence – which sees its perpetrators as ‘irrational mobs’ – by probing what motivates people to commit the escalating scale of inhuman acts and violence, and whether the Pakistani state and its ruling classes can remain indifferent or, as some have argued, complicit in the perpetuation of this deathly violence. Finally, in addition to contesting popular discourses around Islamic fundamentalism and the ‘War on Terror’, this conference also intends to give attention to other topics scarcely covered in the mainstream.

Conference Date: Thursday, May 29th 2014 – Friday, May 30th 2014

Day 1: Panels, Thursday, May 29th
Time: 8:00am-7:30pm
Location: Harry Crowe Room (109 Atkinson College), York University

Day2: Panels , Friday, May 30th
Time: 8:30am-5:45pm
Location: Hart House Debates Room (7 Hart House Circle), University of Toronto

Day 2: Closing Plenary Film and Panel, Friday, May 30th
Time: 6:30pm-9:00pm
Location: Library Lecture Theatre (LIB 72, 250 Victoria Street), Ryerson University

For questions regarding this event please email, or visit the official event website listed below.


Madiha Tahir
Journalist; founding editor of; filmmaker and director of "Wounds of Waziristan"

Saadia Toor
Author; Associate Professor, Sociology, City University of New York

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
Assistant Professor, Quaid-i-Azam University; member of the Awami Workers’ Party (AWP)


Pakistan Conference Committee


Centre for South Asian Studies

Asian Institute

York Centre for Asian Research

Department of Political Science, York University

Canada Union of Public Employees, Local 3092

Ontario Public Interest Research Group

Graduate Association of Students in Political Science, University of Toronto

University of Toronto Students' Union

York University Graduate Students' Association

Department of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University

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