Before Ethnicity: Reading Sindh between Religion, Race, Language, and Nation

In: Philological Encounters
Shayan Rajani Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Lahore University of Management Sciences Lahore Pakistan

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The ethnicity concept frames discussions of regional politics in Pakistan today, as in many other parts of the world. However, this concept only became established in popular and academic discourse in Pakistan in the late 1980s. This article considers the conceptual apparatus for apprehending the region, in particular the region of Sindh, that was in place before ethnicity. It argues that Sindh was a heterogeneous idea articulated at times at the intersection, and at other times in the divergence, of concepts of religion, race, language, and nation. The article considers three historic moments in the context of broad global transformations: Sindh’s communalization and racialization in the nineteenth century; provincialization in the early twentieth century; and finally its culturalization in the early decades of Pakistan’s history. In doing so, it charts a history of the region before ethnicity and also offers a genealogy of the region as a cultural entity.

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