Language, the Nation, and Symbolic Capital

Alyssa Ayres

in Punjab Reconsidered

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780198078012
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199080984 | DOI:
Language, the Nation, and Symbolic Capital

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A movement to ‘revive’ the spirit of the Punjabi language, the Punjabiyat movement, has been catalyzed from within Pakistan — raising intriguing questions about language, nationalism, and the cultural basis of the nation-state. 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 centre 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.

Keywords: nationalism; Punjab; Pakistan; ethnic hegemon; oppressed victim; symbolic capital; Punjabi language; political imagination; national identity; Punjabiyat movement

Chapter.  9190 words.  Illustrated.

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