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A rite of passage: The partition of history and the Dawn of Pakistan

Abstract: This essay draws upon the anthropological conceptualization of ‘rites of passage’ to consider the 1947 Partition of the Indian sub-continent as such a rite, into what Liisa Malkki has called the national order of things. As a rite of passage, analytically distinguished into three phases of separation, transition or limen and incorporation, Partition stories can be seen as potentially about the phase of liminality — Pakistani-Indian and not-Pakistaninot-Indian — a liminality which is both ‘structurally invisible’ and deeply threatening to the ‘stable state’ or national order. In particular this essay focuses on Pakistan, which has often been written about as if lacking a national identity, to suggest that the instability of Pakistan's nationalist narratives provide a productive opening into examining this rite of passage. It does so by exploring Muhajirs as a recalcitrant liminal category, K. K. Aziz's lament over the absence of national history writing and the constitution of Dawn as a national newspaper.

Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali
Taylor and Francis Online