From “Partisan Universal” to “Concrete Universal”? The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement in Pakistan

Authors: Ayyaz Mallick*, York University
Topics: Urban Geography, Social Theory, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Urban Geography, Social Movements, Universality, Particularity, Pakistan
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Balcony A, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper posits the question of universal-particular as a practical – political – question, rather than one which can be dealt with purely scholastically. Specifically, the epistemological and political question of the universal-particular is dealt with through engagement with the on-going Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM) in Pakistan. A Gramscian spatial historicism is drawn upon to analyse the PTM as an articulation of the re-formulated national and urban question in post-9/11 Pakistan. With its demands couched in the language of Constitutionalism, rights to “life” and “dignity”, and claims over space and place, the PTM mobilizes popular Pashtun sentiments in the form of a “partisan universal”: a political formulation which achieves the common good even as it attends to particular interests. However, in popularizing and generalizing its demands against post-9/11 militarisation, the PTM also attempts to make common cause with other affected ethnic-spatial communities. Thus, situated and differentiated – but shared – experiences of multi-scalar projects of dispossession at the hands of the praetorian Pakistani state may serve as the ground for a concrete/dialectical unity. Drawing on Fanon, the PTM and its “dialectic of experience” is a partisan universal in search of a “concrete universal”: a non-totalising but encompassing and open universality, a universal politics which works through – and emerges from within – the particularity of specific groups’ experiences/locations. It is in this terrain of political practice, and its attendant theoretical articulations, that we will find – the contingent and processual – resolution of the transition from particularity to universality.

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