Where we are born and the soil from where we eat: The idea of terric nationhood

By Syeda Quratulain Masood
Submitted to Session P5017 (Perspectives on Nationalism: Anti-Imperialism, Community-building and the Body, 2017 Annual Meeting
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In the study of everyday nationalism, one productive area of debate has focused on how people understand the nation and what are the mental schemas they associate with when connecting their self with the nation. Specifically, this literature has revolved around the older ethnic vs. civic nationalism binary developed through an earlier generation of sociological investigation into the history of nationalism within Europe. The literature on everyday nationalism shows that the connection of the self and nation is ambivalent and contradictory as it oscillates between or is a mixture of the two notions of nationalism (civic and ethnic). I engage in this debate by asking how the participants of my study conceive of themselves as national subjects. Within a regime of truth and power varied from Europe, I inquire how might the conception of nationness change within the participants. Specifically, this paper is based on an ethnographic study of Hindus and Muslims in two neighborhoods of Karachi, Pakistan where I spent time at the homes and worship spaces of the participants of this study. I interviewed eighty participants in total. Through this study I present the idea of “terric nationhood” which conceives of the nation as a collective embodiment of the earth it is placed on. Unlike previous studies of landscape and nationalism, my participants did not conceive of land as a resource to be acquired or a signifier of nation external to them like monuments and the landscape but saw the land and self-connecting through the act of eating and of nourishing oneself. According to this idea the individual and his or her ancestors belong to the earth through the act of ingesting food which comes from the soil. This is where he or she connects with the nation which is one with the earth it is placed on.