Language, the Nation, and Symbolic Capital: The Case of Punjab

by Alyssa Ayres
Citation
Title:
Language, the Nation, and Symbolic Capital: The Case of Punjab
Author:
Alyssa Ayres
Year: 
2008
Publication: 
The Journal of Asian Studies
Volume: 
67
Issue: 
3
Start Page: 
917
End Page: 
946
Publisher: 
Language: 
English
URL: 
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DOI: 
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Abstract:

 

Amovement to“revive the spirit of Punjab and Punjabi” in SouthAsia has enabled a

surprising thaw between the two Punjabs of Pakistan and India. That this revival

movement has been catalyzed from within Pakistan rather than India raises intriguing

questions about language, nationalism, and the cultural basis of the nationstate.

Although the Punjabiyat movement bears the surface features of a classical

nationalist formation—insistence upon recovering an unfairly oppressed history

and literature, one unique on earth and uniquely imbued with the spirit of the

local people and the local land—its structural features differ markedly. Pakistan’s

Punjab has long functioned as an ethnic hegemon, the center against which other

regions struggle in a search for power. Yet the Punjabiyat movement presents

Punjab as an oppressed victim of Pakistan’s troubled search for national identity.

This essay argues that a theory of symbolic capital best explains this otherwise

peculiar inversion of perceived and actual power, and underscores culture’s critical

role in the nation’s political imagination.

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