Place and Postcolonial Ecofeminism


Place and Postcolonial Ecofeminism

Pakistani Women's Literary and Cinematic Fictions

Shazia Rahman

Expanding Frontiers: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Series

246 pages
14 photographs, index


August 2019


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August 2019


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August 2019


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eBook (PDF)
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August 2019


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About the Book

While news reports about Pakistan tend to cover Taliban attacks and bombings, and academics focus on security issues, the environment often takes a backseat in media reportage and scholarship. In particular, Pakistani women’s attachment to their environment and their environmental concerns are almost always ignored. Shazia Rahman traces the ways in which Pakistani women explore alternative, environmental modes of belonging, examines the vitality of place-based identities within Pakistani culture, and thereby contributes to evolving understandings of Pakistani women—in relation to both their environment and to various discourses of nation and patriarchy.

Through an astute analysis of such works as Sabiha Sumar’s Khamosh Pani (2003), Mehreen Jabbar’s Ramchand Pakistani (2008), Sorayya Khan’s Noor (2006), Uzma Aslam Khan’s Trespassing (2003), and Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows (2009), Rahman illuminates how Pakistani women’s creative works portray how people live with one another, deal with their environment, and intuit their relationship with the spiritual. She considers how literary and cinematic documentation of place-based identities simultaneously critiques and counters stereotypes of Pakistan as a country of religious nationalism and oppressive patriarchy. Rahman’s analysis discloses fresh perspectives for thinking about the relationship between social and environmental justice.

Author Bio

Shazia Rahman is an associate professor of English at the University of Dayton.


"Boldly focusing on eco-cosmopolitanism, vernacular and official landscapes, animalization, and bioregionalism, Rahman highlights the tensions between ecocriticism and feminism that have produced a vulnerable position for ecofeminism. The author's new perspective on postcolonial Pakistani studies is welcome."—M. Roy, Choice

"As a welcome infusion of a new and urgent critical voice into Pakistani literary criticism, Place and Postcolonial Ecofeminism makes its most significant contribution to ecocriticism through its focus on the environments of Pakistan."—Cara Cilano, Bloomsbury Pakistan

"Place and Postcolonial Ecofeminism fills an important gap in scholarship in not only Pakistani Literatures specifically, but South Asian Studies in general. It also significantly extends the scope of both feminist and ecocritical scholarship, offering an alternative vision of empowerment for women and the subdominant sections of society that eschews two competing, hegemonic, and limiting, frameworks based on religious nationalism and US imperialism. . . . This pioneering approach from an ecofeminist perspective is sure to pave the way for more such explorations."—Chitra Sankaran, ISLE

"[Place and Postcolonial Ecofeminism] offers much to think about and discuss, including a greater engagement with social and ecological issues so important to Pakistan's development and climate change."—Muneeza Shamsie, Dawn

“Shazia Rahman brings a fine literary critical sensibility to a postcolonial, ecofeminist reading of contemporary Pakistani novels and films. Her ethically charged book offers a fresh . . . engagement with cultural production from Pakistan, an enormously important part of South Asia that is nevertheless often neglected in postcolonial studies.”—Ananya Jahanara Kabir, author of Partition’s Post-Amnesias: 1947, 1971, and Modern South Asia

“This is an urgent and consequential book on the deep entanglements between gender politics and environmental justice. Shazia Rahman brings into conversation for the first time an impressive array of ecological thought leaders and Pakistani writers and film makers. Impressive, vital work.”—Rob Nixon, author of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor

“By foregrounding attachments to Pakistan as a place—comprising land, sea, plants, and animals—Place and Postcolonial Ecofeminism probes the important but overlooked relationship between women and the environment through a critical analysis of patriarchal structures of land ownership and social control that underpin the political and moral economy of Pakistan. Reading novels and feature films against the grain from an ecological perspective reveals the myriad ways of environmental belonging experienced by women at key moments in Pakistan’s history. Innovative in its use of methodologies in environmental humanities and postcolonial analysis, Place and Postcolonial Ecofeminism is a welcome intervention to the incipient debate on women and ecological degradation in Pakistan and will enrich understandings of self, place, and belonging beyond the narrow confines of the postcolonial state’s official nationalism.”—Ayesha Jalal, Mary Richardson Professor of History and director of the Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies at Tufts University

“This book addresses the silence in the environmental humanities and in the academy regarding Pakistani women’s literary and cinematic fictions. Rahman conducts a nuanced analysis of Pakistani women’s lives, particularly in terms of how they engage with land, animals, ecology, and sense of place. She delves into the ways that Pakistani literature and cinema are revealing alternative, environmental ways of belonging that women create to counter dominant discourses of religious nationalism and global Islam.  This book will be required reading not only among ecocritics, but among feminist, postcolonial, ethnic, Pakistani, and American studies scholars as well.”—Joni Adamson, professor of English and director of the Environmental Humanities Initiative at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University

“Shazia Rahman constructively redirects much current scholarship on Pakistani literature and film. Her focus on women’s narratives, understood broadly, and the environment is not only timely in terms of scholarly trends but also necessary, given the increasingly stark risks Pakistanis and others around the world face due to environmental neglect and degradation.”—Cara Cilano, professor of English at Michigan State University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: The Place That Is Pakistan
1. Punjab: Eco-cosmopolitan Feminism
2. Thar: Bioregionalism
3. Bengal: Vernacular Landscape
4. Karachi: Pakistani Eco-cosmopolitanism
5. Displacement: Animalization
Conclusion: Justice for All

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