Speaking Like a State: Language and Nationalism in Pakistan

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Overview

Alyssa Ayres' fascinating study examines Pakistan's troubled history by exploring the importance of culture to political legitimacy. Early leaders selected Urdu as the natural symbol of the nation's great cultural past, but due to its limited base great efforts would be required to make it truly national. This paradox underscores the importance of cultural policies for national identity formation. By comparing Pakistan's experience with those of India and Indonesia, the author analyzes how their national language policies led to very different outcomes. The lessons of these large multiethnic states offer insights for the understanding of culture, identity, and nationalism throughout the world. The book is aimed at scholars in the fields of history, political theory and South Asian studies, as well as those interested in the history of culture and nationalism in one of the world's most complex, and challenging, countries.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Alyssa Ayres has written an important and compelling account of the impact and influence of language and culture on one of the twentieth century’s most dramatic stories—the creation of Pakistan as the very first nation born of a religion. She reveals the extraordinary story of the role that language has played in shaping nationalism and culture in modern Pakistan. Dr. Ayres is one of our finest experts on the history, culture and politics of South Asia”
-Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard University and formerly U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

“An important study into the complexities of language and history in Pakistan which offers unique insights into the fragility of Pakistan as a nation. No country in the world is more important to America than Pakistan and this book helps us understand it better."
-Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution

“Today, when all eyes are focused on Pakistan … Alyssa Ayres has provided an insightful analysis of Pakistan’s domestic cultural complexities. … Ayres brings cultural issues and trends squarely into the discourse of national polity. This is a rare feat.”
-Vishakha N. Desai, President, Asia Society

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521519311
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 8/31/2009
  • Pages: 230
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Alyssa Ayres is Director for India and South Asia at McLarty Associates, Washington, DC. A cultural historian of modern South Asia, Alyssa Ayres has carried out research in India, Pakistan, and Indonesia. She has co-edited three books, including one forthcoming on power realignments between China, India, and the United States, as well as two volumes in Asia Society's India Briefing series.
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Table of Contents

List of illustrations; List of tables; Acknowledgments; Note on transliteration; Introduction; 1. Articulating a new nation; 2. Urdu and the nation; 3. The nation and its margins; 4. The case of Punjab, part I: elite efforts; 5. The case of Punjab, part II: popular culture; 6. History and local absence; 7. Bringing back the local past; 8. Speaking like a state: language planning; 9. Religion, nation, language; 10. Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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