International Journal of Middle East Studies

Articles

Conjuring Pakistan: History as Official Imagining

Ayesha Jalala1

a1 Associate Professor in the Department of History, Fayerweather Hall, Columbia University, Columbia University, N.Y. 10027, U.S.A.

Even before an anthropologists tour de force underlined the power of imagination as creation in narrative constructions of the “nation,” memory, myth, and might had been triumphantly parading the realm of historical scholarship. The torch of objectivity did not have to go cold for the heat of subjectivity to captivate and command audiences through print and signs, visual or aural. It is simply that the cornmodification of the past by the marketplace and the expansive imaginings of power have combined to reduce the once revered craft of the historian to a battlefield where mired imaginings posture as interpretations in a contest in which there are no umpires, only partisans. So it is not necessary to claim objective ground when presumably no such domain exists or even to spin yarns about “authenticity” and “falsification.” But it is possible to make an analytical distinction between the past as invention and the past as inspiration without denying the role of creativity or power in either conception.

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