The arms industry is widely known to be one of the most corrupt and deadly sectors in the world. Often exempt from transparency and accountability, this industry produces the weapons and technology necessary for the wars that kill, disappear or displace millions of people every year.
Unfortunately, UK universities, too, are implicated in this business through their cooperation with arms manufacturing companies that supply weapons to war zones. This includes the University of Oxford, where this podcast is based. As calls for divestment from the fossil fuels industry are on the rise, so too are student and staff campaigns for divestment in the war and border industries.
Anti-war and anti-militarism have historically been key causes of women’s liberation struggles arund the world. This is not least because zones of war, conflict and securitization often create climates of impunity for all sorts of violence and injustice, including gendered and sexualized violence.
State violence and militarism create war-like conditions even during times of peace, especially for women and for communities at the margins of state power. In the name of national security, states mobilize their resources to control and govern populations through violence or threats of violence. Unsurprisingly, the language of security often gets applied to wider constituencies to render dissent, opposition and resistance impossible.
In this episode, Dilar Dirik is in conversation with Mahvish Ahmad, who has researched and reported on state violence and militarism in Pakistan for many years. Among other things, they speak about the ways in which the lives of women, including women from oppressed and minoritized communities in Pakistan, get impacted by state violence and the ways in which state violence and patriarchal violence interact. What do women in Balochistan for example mean by patriarchy in uniform? What is it like to work and research on these topics as a woman? Mahvish talks about historical women’s struggles in the region and about contemporary feminist activism and women’s resistance in Pakistan. She further discusses the role of media in the representation of war and violence in Pakistan and the ways in which dynamics on the ground in warzones get framed according to dominant perspectives.
In this conversation, we also learn about the value of learning from movements struggling for liberation, a major aspect of Mahvish’s work. What can we learn from the analyses put forward by social/political movements, especially in contexts of war, occupation, state violence, and militarism? In what ways has the US-led so-called war on terror shaped knowledge production on entire regions and countries? How are social movements and grassroots activists impacted by this?
Mahvish Ahmad studies state violence and movements resisting militarism in Pakistan. She is the co-founder of Revolutionary Papers, a transnational research project investigating anticolonial movement texts in the 20th century (with Chana Morgenstern and Koni Benson), a co-convener of Archives of the Disappeared which investigates the problem of finding archives and evidence in sites of mass atrocity (with Yael Navaro, Mezna Qato and Chana Morgenstern), and a co-founder of Tanqeed, an English/Urdu bilingual magazine that primarily covered military violence in Pakistan until 2017 (with Madiha Tahir). She is an Assistant Professor of Human Rights and Politics at the London School of Economics.
This project is made possible through the University of Oxford’s Public Engagement with Research fund.
Music: Hum Dekhenge - Iqbal Bano