Institute for Educational Development, Karachi
A while ago, when I was studying in Grade 8 at an English-medium school in Lahore, our class was divided up in four groups for a Geography project on Pakistan. The group of which I was a part had to make a sculptural map of Pakistan, demonstrating the diverse physical and social qualities of its landscape. And so we had set about carving our country with materials like styro-foam, cotton, cloth, and cardboard. In the final map that we made, the region of Gilgit-Baltistan - then the “Northern Areas” – had remained unlabeled and unpeopled, marked only with mountains made of clay. Even today, nature remains the primary modality through which Gilgit-Baltistan is understood within the Pakistani national imagination. Its magnificent peaks and breathtaking valleys invoke within Pakistanis a simultaneous sense of emotional attachment and proud ownership, permitting them to claim Pakistan as “beautiful”. In this article, I elaborate how the aesthetics of nature constitute a key terrain for state power in Pakistan. Gilgit-Baltistan is integral to the way in which the spatial structure, geographical essence, and physical-ecological constitution of the Pakistani nation/state is imagined, and as such, the region helps to consolidate a sense of the national self through the definition of the natural self. If maps produce the geo-body of the nation (Winichakul 1997), then representational practices surrounding the ecology of particular regions serve to constitute what I call the eco-body of the nation, converting natural splendor into territorial essence and epitome. I have retained the region’s previous name of “Northern Areas” in this article, as the analysis was undertaken prior to the name change in 2009.
Ali, N. (2014). Spaces of nature: Producing Gilgit-Baltistan as the eco-body of the nation. Ethnoscripts, 16(1), 115–123.
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