Dissertation Award for Salman Hussain

April 08, 2019

Salman Hussain, a Research Fellow in the Department ‘Law & Anthropology’ at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (MPI) from September 2017 to April 2018, was awarded the UC Berkeley S.S. Pirzada Dissertation Prize in Pakistan Studies. Hussain completed the writing of his dissertation entitled “Together without Consensus: Class, Emotions and the Politics of the Rule of Law in the Lawyers’ Movement (2007–09) in Pakistan” during his stay at the MPI.

Fellowship at the MPI was invaluable
The award ceremony will take place on Friday, 26 April 2019 at the Institute of South Asia Studies at the University of Berkley, where Hussain will give a lecture on the research project that was the basis of his dissertation. The resources available at the MPI helped him to finalize his work. “The MPI’s dissertation fellowship allowed me to write parts of my dissertation and edit the ones I had already written. Also, during my stay, I twice presented my research to fellow MPI researchers. Their comments were most helpful for my writing,” Hussain says. “There were also a number of graduate students at the MPI whose work motivated my own and a couple of these students are good friends now.”

Continuing research in Pakistan
Hussain has recently accepted a job offer for a Lecturer/Research and Teaching Fellowship in the Legal Studies Program, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Currently he is working on two research projects and one book. Hussain: “First, I am revising my dissertation into a book manuscript; second, I am planning to write another article on the cases of forced disappearances in Pakistan; and third, I am working on Hijra/Khwajasara activism for fundamental human rights in Pakistan. I am planning to conduct field research in Pakistan in Summer 2019 to collect additional data on these projects.”

Rights discourses and political protests
Hussain’s dissertation “Together without Consensus” is an ethnographic examination of how political emotions, historical memory, and notion(s) of the rule of law are mobilized in postcolonial Pakistan. Hussain suggests that liberal legality and discourses of rights have become popular hegemonic languages for mobilizing political protests and legal claims in South Asia. Based on 20 months of fieldwork in Pakistan from January 2014 to June 2015, followed by shorter field trips in 2016, 2017, and 2018, Hussain’s study focuses on the protest movement called the Lawyers’ Movement for the Restoration of Judiciary and Democracy that took place from 2007 to 2009. It was led by lawyers, their bar associations and their allies in the educated and professional middle class.

The hegemony of legality
Hussain investigates how the lawyers successfully galvanized Pakistanis to protest against military rule and led efforts to restore the higher judiciary. He addresses how the political agency of individuals and groups advocating disparate religious, ‘secular’, and liberal ideals is formed collectively, and how they engage in political action without the prior establishment of a consensus. He suggests that, following the Lawyers’ Movement, various forms of popular protest and agitation in postcolonial South Asia continue to draw from the discourses on liberal legality and constitutional rights.

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