Development and Marginalization: Gender, Infrastructure, and State-making in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan
This dissertation investigates the forms of marginalization and exclusion, particularly of women, produced by state-fostered large-scale projects and nation-state building processes in Gilgit-Baltistan, located in the northern frontier region of Pakistan. In a context where state-led development projects and policies are primarily motivated by nationalism and territorial integration, the strategic interests of the state undermine the promised people-centric objectives of economic development and exacerbate gendered inequalities in economic development that lead to the exclusion of women. My ethnographic research, involving participant observations, semi-structured interviews, group discussions, and my personal encounters during fieldwork, explores the underrepresented local counter-narratives of development that are mostly overshadowed by the hegemonic nationalist narrative. By focusing on women’s narratives, my research examines the real barriers and constraints shaping their everyday lived experiences. This dissertation engages with the theoretical frameworks of state-making, critical development, and feminist approaches to studying women’s empowerment and economic development. The chapters in this dissertation center on three main topics: First, this dissertation analyzes women entrepreneurs in Gilgit-Baltistan as disciplined development subjects forged by the development discourse and practice prevalent in the Global South since the last quarter of the 20th century. Second, this dissertation explains the differential subjectivities and variations in women’s experiences and engagement with development as an outcome of the nation-state building processes carried out by both ideological and infrastructural apparatuses: the institutionalization of Islam and Muslimness to construct a uniform national identity, on the one hand, and the Karakoram Highway and the military-state’s strategic intervention to integrate Gilgit-Baltistan into Pakistan’s national territory, on the other. By laying out the politico-historical context in the postcolonial era, this dissertation situates women in the larger geopolitical realities and argues that social differentiation among women is a consequence of hegemonic state interventions. Third, this dissertation is a work of anthropology at home that draws from my personal experiences and encounters during fieldwork in my home region. It engages with questions about the positionalities of the researcher as sites of challenge and opportunity in the field and larger disciplinary practices.