PUNJAB: COLONIALISM, LANGUAGE AND IDENTITY
Society for Cultural Education (SCE) in collaboration with THAAP is organizing a number of activities as part of its initiative, “Celebrating Culture and Art". The initiative aims to put in perspective cultural practices and artistic expressions. It is an effort to create a theoretical frame work that may explain the linkages between concept and practice.
To achieve this, the initiative is organizing a panel discussion. The details of the panel discussion are as follow:
"PUNJAB: COLONIALISM, LANGUAGE AND IDENTITY"
(Punjab wich Kalonigiri, Boli ty Pichhan)
Panelists: Raja Sadiq Ullah, Mr. Majid Sheikh and Mr. Mushtaq Soofi
on February 26th, 2016 at 5:00 pm
at 37-D, Main Gulberg, Lahore
People are known by the language they speak . Language is maker of identity and repository of cultural history. The question of language has kept the public mind agitated for generations as it has had serious cultural, socio-economic and political ramifications in terms of shaping, reshaping and de-shaping the very identity of the people of Punjab. The Punjab, after its occupation by the British colonialists in 1849 turned into a modern Tower of Babel, creating a linguistic conundrum that has not been fully understood and sorted out. The panel will attempt to understand and analyze the much misunderstood language issue confounded by colonialism and post Partition particularistic ideologies which had and still have direct impact on literacy, education, culture and collective identity.
HER SPACE: A DIALOGUE
"I talk, you listen!" - Sexist attitudes in educational and work places
Speaker: Sonia Qadir and Sarah Suhail from Feminist Collective
I Talk-You Listen
Sexism in Educational And Work Places
“One is not born, but rather becomes a woman” -- Simone De Beauvoir
What is the relation of the Place in Educational and Work-Places with Sexist attitudes?
If womanhood is defined by society, as Beauvoir argues, it is hardly achieved in the abstract – rather it is both a historical and geographical category – it is located in specific time(s) and specific place(s). In other words, our conceptions of space both define, and are defined by, gender norms. By dividing space into the public and private realms for instance, society defines gender roles – who can legitimately exist in which space, in what capacity and under what circumstances.
When women are defined as beings who exist in the “private”, what happens when they enter “public” spaces? What kinds of assumptions are made of their capacities, what kinds of demands are made of their bodies, and their time? How are educational and work-places constructed to rectify the binaries of public/private, man/woman? How does it affect the way women operate in these spaces? How do they resist?
Keeping the above-mentioned questions in mind, we invite women in the audience to share their experiences of sexism in educational and work places, and their visions of a better future. We also invite men in the audience to listen – to take this opportunity to understand how women’s voices, and their bodies, are marginalized in these spaces, and uncover the violence of the everyday that may otherwise be invisible to them.
"The radical challenge of feminine voice in Punjabi poetry"
Speaker: Ayesha Nadir Ali from Sangat
The rise of civilizations is tied into the creation of surplus, and notions of property. Humans have evolved intricate relations of production in achieving this. Fundamental is a division of society into classes. Classes of oppressed whose labor creates the surplus and classes that rule over them on the basis of controlling this surplus. The violence and injustice is part and parcel of growth and maintenance of capitalist civilization and it is no easy task to do away with it. The position of subservience of women is one of the relations of production that enables the production of capital. The poets of Punjab in particular but countless others critique with great insight such a set-up that poisons the human community. It is these faqeers and bhagats who consciously situate themselves with and become the voice of the oppressed in our poetry. Be it the woman who is reduced to cattle, whose body and soul is the property of the males of her family of birth and later, her marriage, or be it the laboring classes who are forever deprived of the true fruits of their labor. Hence the question of women’s oppression takes center stage in the radical politics these poets engage in, be it via the qissa of Heer and Ranjha or countless other symbols of resistance to this exploitative set-up. The madness that accompanies the social structures that organize society along class lines, and worships property and ownership is the subject of our poetry. The ‘Khaeras’ are representatives of the classes that forcibly seize and possess the labor and love of the classes that Ranjha, the ‘chaak’ aligns with. Ranjha fights back, on Heer’s insistence, taking on the rebellious posture of the Jogi!
"The feminist collective: ‘We may call it feminism or something else"
LAHORE: “Reading 10 books is not necessary to understand that one is being treated unjustly,” Sara Suhail of the Feminist Collective said on Friday.
Suhail made the remarks at a discussion on feminism and issues pertinent to women. She said any women being oppressed was aware of it and any means she used to defy it constituted resistance. Whatever ideological lens one placed on the resistance, Suhail said, originated from one individual understanding of it. “So we may call it feminism or something else,” she said. Suhail said women in the Indian subcontinent had a history of standing up for themselves.
She said women often felt out of place in public spaces. “We feel as if we have done something wrong by being here so we hunch over and try to make ourselves seem smaller,” Suhail said. She said reservations were a welcome thing in this context as they helped women come out.
Sonia Qadir of the Feminist Collective spoke about making the collective broader in terms of class representation. Those present agreed with her saying that such initiatives were often the exclusive preserve of women with affluent backgrounds who dressed and spoke in a particular way. They said this deterred other women wishing to join. Qadir said the collective had been looking into ways of overcoming the challenges.
She said they wanted to maintain a distance from the “victim-survivor” narrative. “Often, when we speak to women residing in rural areas or of lesser means they want to start a conversation from somewhere else while we want to commence it from somewhere else,” Qadir said. She said how to go around interacting with a broader set of women without making victims out of them was a pressing question for them. Replying to some men in the audience who felt it was necessary to struggle at a broader human level to combat issues like poverty, Suhail said that gender inequality was prevalent even in developed countries where poverty was not a pressing problem.
Ayesha Nadir Ali of Sangat conducted the second session of the evening. Ali spoke about women in Punjabi poetry. She said the line between the East and the West was arbitrary when it came to women. Ali said this was a manmade distinction as all humans came from the same landmass. She posited this in context of the fact that Europe and Asia were connected. Historically, Ali said, humans originated from one place and had carried some remnant of this. She said oppressing women constituted a part of this.
Citing the example of Heer, Ali said, Waris Shah had portrayed her as someone vocal about her opinions rather than depicting her as a victim. She said even her sister-in-law sided with her in Shah’s poetry. Ali said Heer’s story was also a comment against then prevalent customs where women were treated like commodities. She said Heer’s story had existed long before Shah had penned it. “Such stories come from people’s experiences,” Ali said.
The event was organised by the Society for Cultural Education (SCE) in collaboration with the Trust for History, Art and Architecture Pakistan (THAAP).
Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2016.
UCA is formed with its focus on imparting quality education through its initiatives/activities. The main initiative undertook by UCA is establishment of a university, which will be functional by the end of 2017.
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