In her spellbindingly brilliant new book, Dying to Serve: Militarism, Affect, and the Politics of Sacrifice in the Pakistan Army
(Stanford University Press, 2020), Maria Rashid conducts an intimate and layered ethnography of militarism and death in Pakistan, with a focus on the lives, aspirations, and tragedies of soldiers and their families in rural Punjab. How does the Pakistani military’s regulation and management of affect and emotions like grief authorize and sustain the practice of sacrificing the self in service to the nation? Rashid addresses this question through a riveting and at many times hauntingly majestic analysis of a range of themes including carefully choreographed public spectacles of mourning, military regimes of cultivating martial subjects, fissures between official scripts and unofficial unfoldings of grieving, anxieties over the representation of maimed soldiers, and ambiguities surrounding the appropriation of martyrdom (shahādat
) for death on the battlefield. Theoretically incisive, ethnographically charged, and politically urgent, Dying to Serve
is a landmark publication in the study of South Asia, Pakistan, and modern militarism that is destined to become a classic. It is also written with lyrical lucidity, making it an excellent text to teach in a range of undergraduate and graduate courses on modern Islam, South Asia, religion and violence, gender and masculinity, affect studies, and theories and methods in anthropology and religion.
SherAli Tareen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His academic publications are available here. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listener feedback is most welcome.