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Title: The quest for humanity in a dehumanised state : Afghan refugees and devalued citizens in urban Pakistan, 1979-2012
Author: Alimia, Sana
Awarding Body: SOAS, University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis asks two questions. Firstly, how do refugees exert political agency in Pakistan? And secondly, does legal citizenship affect the expression of political agency in Pakistan? It examines how Afghans (non-citizens) and Pakistanis (citizens - specifically the urban poor) occupy a shared reality in Pakistan. It pays attention to urban spaces, and it looks at this shared space through a framework of 'dehumanisation' and 'self-humanisation' as informed by the oral narratives and ethnography collected during fieldwork in Karachi and Peshawar. In everyday urban Pakistan differences at the level of political agency between the citizen and the non-citizen are slim. This is because official institutions do not deliver the material and nonmaterial resources to which both groups are legally entitled. In practice, therefore, both Afghans and Pakistanis use a similar repertoire of 'hybrid' formal/informal structures and strategies to redistribute everyday material and non-material goods in their push for a humanised existence. Through these shared experiences of dehumanisation and self-humanisation, an alternative space of 'belonging' occurs, which goes beyond traditional demarcations between 'refugees', 'citizens', and 'non-citizens'. These formal/informal ways of being are tolerated and encouraged by official actors because they represent an alternative way of managing urban populations and maintaining the state. However, specific benefits withstanding, this sphere of formal/informal political agency inadvertently chips away at the Pakistani state, in physical and non-physical ways, creating longterm changes to the city and the political legitimacy of the state. This thesis concludes by showing that 'citizenship' matters only in the domain of state 'security'. The post-2001 climate of (in)security in Pakistan has created deeply penetrative forms of enumeration and surveillance. This combines with negative constructions of the Afghan 'Other' to create an everyday reality of humiliation (police harassment, verbal and physical abuse, and arbitrary detention) which is specifically reserved for Afghan bodies.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral