Shozab Raza (Ph.D. University of Toronto, 2022) will complete his doctoral work in Anthropology with a dissertation titled “Theory from the Trenches: Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism on Pakistan’s Estates”. His research explores how laboring actors in the global South drew on transnationally circulating ideas to generate concepts aimed at advancing revolutionary anti-imperialism. His dissertation, which he plans to transform into a book manuscript, is a historical ethnography of a communist-led agri-labor insurgency on Pakistan’s colonial-fortified “landed estates” (jagirs). During the 1970s, landless agri-laborers in the former “Punjab Frontier” region began to occupy these estates, especially after enrolling in a communist party that argued these estates evidenced Pakistan’s “neo-colonial” condition. The party also energized agri-laborers to theorize, and to see the importance of theory for political practice. Agri-laborers creatively stretched the communist party’s theory in several ways, including by combining Marxism and Sufism in a “mystical Marxism”. The project conceptualizes their theory-making as “trench theory”, with the trench metaphor flagging a mode of subterranean theorizing for political combat. To further their political objectives, agri-laborers creatively reworked Euro-centric revolutionary theory for their specific contexts, while also taking inspiration from radical movements across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. His project draws on 20 months of ethnographic research in rural Pakistan, as well as various under-researched archives, including police surveillance files, the communist party’s internal literature, and the notebooks and diaries of revolutionaries.
Launched in 2018, Jamhoor is a critical media organization that amplifies marginalized and progressive voices from South Asia and its diasporas. It promotes insights that situate the region within various structures of power, including capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, patriarchy, casteism, and racism, and is a member of the Progressive International, a global coalition of pro-labor activist groups, research institutes, and media organizations. During the term of this fellowship, Shozab will be commissioning, curating and editing pieces for a special summer 2023 issue on “Laboring South Asia”. This issue will situate labor in South Asia and its diasporas within various dynamic structures of power, including imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy, racism and casteism. It will cover varying geographies of labor across the region, as well as differently situated laboring actors, including urban formal and informal workers, agrarian labor, and socially reproductive labor. The issue will consist of reportage, commentaries, photo-essays, fiction, poetry, and short video clips.
Shozab Raza held a Chancellor Jackman Graduate Fellowship at the JHI in 2020-2021 and we are delighted to welcome him back.
JHI Annual Theme, 2022-2023: Labour
From the labour of childbirth to the travail of making a living, human beings are labouring animals who derive meaning and experience meaninglessness in work. Historically, human creativity has long flourished both through and against labour-saving technologies. In a globalizing and climate-changing world, rising nationalist movements call for the fortification of borders that would stop seasonal flows of labour, while women call for pay equity and harassment-free workplaces to allow for the freedom to work in peace. In a world of increasingly precarious labour, thanks in part to automation, what does the future of work portend for both people and the planet? What forms of resistance are possible when workers face both the irrelevance of their labour and its exploitation?