Michel Boivin is a senior researchfellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), currentlyposted at the Centre d’Etudes de l’Asie du sud (CEIAS) –Ecole des Hautes Etudes en sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris.
He is a historian and an anthropologist who specializes on the Muslim societies and cultures in colonial and postcolonial South Asia. He has authored twelve books and many academic papers. In English, his last book is Historical Dictionary of the Sufi Culture of Sindh in Pakistan and in India (Karachi, Oxford University Press, 2015). It is the result of extensive fieldwork in Pakistan and India between 2002 and 2014.
This book tackles the issue of delimiting Sufism : where does it start and where does it end ? Speaking about Sufism does not typically account for its broad range of influence on societies and cultures, thus this Dictionary aims to highlight the extent of Sufism’s reach, specifically in the context of Sindh.Various forms and iterations of Sufism are practically ubiquitous across Sindh,including even its most remote regions. The many discourses expressed by Sufism areoften interwoven with other devotional traditions in the region, merged by the use ofa shared technical lexicon in the fields of both poetry and ritual.
The Dictionaryconsequently includes references to the traditions and literatures with which Sufismhas engaged, like those of the Muslim Ismailis and Zikris, and the HinduDaryapanthis and Nanakshahis.The reference language of the Dictionary is Sindhi as, besides some dialecticalvariations, the language remains a common thread between the Sufi cultures ofSindh, the neighbouring regions of India, and the Sindhi diaspora. The Dictionary isalphabetically-arranged, and features vivid illustrations, an extensive bibliography,and a chronological chart of major historical events pertaining to the topic.
- Islam and the Social forms of Domination : Pakistan through
the lens of anthropology
by Michel Boivin
Wednesday 29 April - Alliance française - Conference Hall - 6:30 pm
All over the word, Pakistan is depicted as the hub of Islamist terrorism, as a country which is only ruled by violence. Such images are mainly built by the media, and also by some scholars who are mostly specialists of geopolitics as well as political scientists. It is remarkable that these perspectives are usually drawn in the wake of those of the American agencies. Obviously, it is also due to the competition resulting from the proliferation of the media which put violence as the main attractive dynamic.
The main argument of the presentation is that social forms of domination in Pakistan result more from a process of sacralizationof power rather than from norms induced by Islamic injunctions. Islamic references were used to legitimize a domination system implemented bydominant groups on dominated groups. For the demonstration, the issue of relation between power and sacred will be introduced as a main topos of anthropology. Such a perspective will allowto escapethe essentialization of Islam, and it will be rooted in the social fabric which is at work in the field.
Social organization of Pakistan will be addressed through examining the biradari. Although everybody heard about the biradari, it can not be translated by a single English word and it is also very difficult to give a simple explanation of it. The issue of domination is nonetheless very linked to the representation process of the biradari through a number of narratives. Furthermore, in many cases, the head of the biradari, very often a feudal lord,introduces himself as a king whose territory is the area where his kin is settled, and on which heexercises his almost royal power. The biradari system is also much dependent on two other well-known features of anthropology : patriarchy and clientelism.Finally, the alliance between the feudal lords and the local clergy allow the first to give an Islamic legitimization to the power they claim.