Sadia Bajwa (Doctoral Candidate, Humboldt University, Berlin)
The Genealogy of the Nationalist Historiography of Pakistan:
An Analysis of Historiography in the Context of the Emergent ‘Muslim Nationalist’ Discourse, 1857-1947.
The aim of this study is to trace the history of the main historical concepts and premises that dominate the nationalist historiography of Pakistan. The study firstly looks at how the Muslim past imagined by the Muslim intellectual elites in the course of the century prior to partition, which is when the Hindu-Muslim dichotomy began to crystallise politically (i.e., ca. 1857-1947). Secondly, a link is drawn between this emergent discourse of ‘Muslim nationalist’ historiography and the post-partition nationalist history writing in Pakistan. The post-partition nationalist history of Pakistan, written with the ideological aim of forging the Pakistani identity, was not constructed out of thin air. Thus, this paper examines to what extent the historical themes, the periodisations, the geographical imaginings, and the heroes and villains of this historiography were drawn from the pre-partition historiographic discourse of Muslim identity that was premised on the idea of Muslim difference and distinctiveness, especially in opposition to ‘the Hindu’. The study is based on the understanding of a historiographic analysis as an insight into the relationship between history and identity. Historiography is understood as a window into a certain discourse of identity, as well as an ideological tool to create and mould this identity.
The analysis has been divided into two phases: pre-Khalifat and post-Khalifat. Before the failure if the Khalifat movement the dominant ideologies cursing in the intellectual elite were an uneasy mix of pro-British modernism, pan-Islamism, and in the 20th century, also pro-Hindu-Muslim unity. An attempt has been made to see how these political developments are reflected in the historiography of the time, and how in turn, the ideas expressed in the historiography shaped the discourse of Muslim identity. In the post-Khalifat phase, the focus is primarily on how the development of the idea of Pakistan is reflected in the historical concepts and constructions employed in the historiography of the time. In particular, historical constructions that support the Two-Nation Theory and varying separatist visions are identified. Thus, the study does not solely deal with academic histories, but also with explicitly ideologically and politically motivated historiography that in supporting a certain view of the Muslim nation inevitably employed historical concepts which were embedded in the dominant discourse of Muslim identity, i.e. the ‘Muslim nationalist’ discourse.
As an epilogue, this paper touches on questions regarding the post-partition negotiation of Pakistan’s history and identity in public discourse, as opposed to the state-sponsored official discourse of nationalism. The official discourse draws on and is embedded in a public Muslim identity discourse that has its roots in the pre-partition era, and which rediscovered and renegotiated itself within the newly established territorial and ideological boundaries of independent Pakistan. It is proposed that this public discourse provided the state with its ideological raw material, while at the same time, through its counter-narratives, challenged state hegemony over the production of historical knowledge. While the official discourse is well represented in historiographic sources such as textbook history, what are the historiographic sources that could serve as an insight into the public discourse on Pakistan’s identity?