Environmental History, <i>Biradari</i>, and the Making of Pakistani Punjab

David Gilmartin

in Punjab Reconsidered

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780198078012
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199080984 | DOI:
Environmental History, Biradari, and the Making of Pakistani Punjab

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This chapter links Punjab’s large-scale environmental transformations, brought by British canal irrigation, to partition and the creation of Pakistan. Colonial irrigation and settlement policies shaped the emergence of biradari (‘brotherhood’ of extended kin) as the dominant social form in twentieth century Punjab. Biradari organization defined the primary cultural framework for accommodation to the new colonial property order, even as it also defined a realm of autonomy within it. But it was also a deeply parochial form of identity. It is against the ubiquitous importance of biradari — a product of Punjab’s environmental transformation — that we can trace the distinctive history of Punjab’s religious communalism, which mobilized visions of religious community as a moral abstraction, largely divorced from relationships on the land. The interconnections between biradari and this vision of religion shaped the coming of partition and its violence and have continued to influence the politics of Pakistan.

Keywords: environment; property; irrigation; biradari; partition; Pakistan; Punjab; religious communalism

Chapter.  11890 words. 

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