Anthropological Analysis of Local Politics and Patronage in a Pakistani Village

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Asymmetrical power relationships are found throughout Pakistan’s Punjabi and Pukhtun communities. These relationships must be examined as manifestations of cultural continuity rather than as separate structures. The various cultures of Pakistan display certain common cultural features which suggest a re-examination of past analytical divisions of tribe and peasant societies. This book looks at the ways power is expressed, accumulated and maintained in three social contexts: kinship, caste, and political relationships. These are embedded within a collection of ‘hybridising’ cultures. Socialisation within kin groups provides the building blocks for Pakistani asymmetrical relationships, which may be understood as a form of patronage. As these social building blocks are transferred to non-kin contexts, the patron/client aspects are more easily identified and studied. State politics and religion are examined for the ways in which these patron/client roles are enacted on much larger scales but remain embedded within the cultural values underpinning those roles.


“This is a first-rate study…that imaginatively, adventurously and successfully combines ethnographic and theoretical insights. As an ethnographic study it makes an important contribution to our understanding of Punjabi society and politics. Its ‘case example’ style and focus on conflict resolution widens its appeal making it a valuable teaching text. The most impressive feature of Lyon’s book is, however, an unusually strong comparative intent. Its findings, especially the discussion of ‘hybridisation’ of Punjabi society, are carefully dovetailed into a critical review of sources of variation in the south Asian ethnographic tradition, that should appeal to both area specialists and anthropologists less familiar with the region. The careful analysis of honour and patronage systems, and direct comparison with middle-eastern and Mediterranean examples and debate on these issues, is an especially valuable addition to the literature….this is an important contribution to political anthropology, and to the discussion of peasant politics….The lucid and engaging style in which it is written make it readily accessible to the academic community as a whole –scholars and students alike.” – Nevill Colclough

“…superb blend of narrative and hard-nosed analysis…he is on the cutting edge, perhaps the bleeding edge, of this emerging approach in social science. Outside the academy, the book is likely to appeal to individuals concerned with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the emerging ex-Soviet Central Asian nations, particularly given the current interest in these areas….also has some role in helping to understand the increasing role of Sharia law, and its likely consequences, particularly in the NW Frontier. Development consultants will find invaluable information to help them understand local micro-processes in political and jural domains….this book has a good chance to be very influential in the theoretical development of political and jural anthropology. Not only is this one of the first new’ empirical works that develops the relationships between ideology, ideation and enactment, he takes what is apparently a contentious problem (the supportive role of power) and presents the material in a very non-contentious manner that openly addresses the issues.” – Michael D. Fischer, Director, Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing, University of Kent

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface by Professor Hastings Donnan
1. Power, Patronage and ‘hybridsation’: power; crossroads cultures – areas of ‘hybridisation’; the Middle East and the Mediterranean; important concepts from the anthropology of India
2. The Village, Region and Methods: country; Village and region; district and regional identity
3. A Selected Anthropology of Pakistan: nature of political leadership; caste; class; agnatic rivalry and izzat
4. Family Relations: family defined; life-cycle; patronage within the family
5. Labour Relations: home servants; sharecroppers; drivers, carpenters, seasonal field hands and others
6. Caste and Tribe as Vertical Organisations for Patronage: caste, tribe, qaum, zat, rishtidar, biraderi, sharika; caste and qaum in the village; qaum history in the village; qaum history and organization; Gujars; K’hattars;what qaum means in the village; qaum-ism organizations;qaum in government politics
7. Symbolic Violence and Rivalry between ‘Equals’: what is a dég?; symbolic violence; indirect symbolic violence
8. Local Arbitration and Conflict Deferment: conflict resolution; legal systems, case studies; arbitration is not about resolution
9. State Politics: landlords in state political processes; patrons and clients in the political process
10. Religion and Patronage: the economy of pir worship; Maulvis – the case ration-legal and religious authority
11. Conclusion: relationships of asymmetrical exchange; impact on anthropological theory and an anthropology of Pakistan; implications for society and development – patronage and instability
Bibliography; Additional reading; Subject and Author indices

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