Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - We Have Always Wanted to Be Modern: Sovereignty, a Shared River Basin, and the Postcolonial in Pakistan

Friday, March 23
12:45 PM - 2:45 PM
Location: Thurgood Marshall West, Mezzanine

This paper draws upon the 1950-60s period, when the World Bank-brokered Indus Water Treaty was signed between India and Pakistan, to examine the politics of development and the (dis)placement of needs to the newly decolonized third world, and the dialogics of dictatorship and democracy in 1960s’ Pakistan, then under General Ayub Khan’s military rule. I examine linkages between New Deal and Cold War politics, mega development projects such the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Indus Water Treaty, tracing 1950s’ modernization theory through to its more recent permutations and asking what the political and epistemological stakes have been. Building upon archival research on the Indus Water Treaty, and in the David Lilienthal collection (1950s-70s), I outline the shoring up of three subject positions – the Bank, India and Pakistan – and detail how nascent postcolonial sovereignties interfaced with the demands of multilateral donor funding in the service of, at times, a postcolonial politics of construction, and at times a politics of dependence and conscription. In examining the text of the treaty, I show how an impossible politics of property and ownership in river water, basins and beds is translated into a politics of sharing qua management to enable the daily life of sovereignty in India and Pakistan. The paper then transitions to contemporary debates around the treaty – in the last year, the treaty has come under attack in India and Pakistan – and asks after a different valuation of the postcolonial (this latter part draws upon extended fieldwork in Pakistan.)

Maira Hayat

University of Chicago, California

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1 - We Have Always Wanted to Be Modern: Sovereignty, a Shared River Basin, and the Postcolonial in Pakistan



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