Being part of a violent community in revolt can be addictive--it can be fun. This book offers a fascinating inside look at present-day political violence in Pakistan through a historical ethgraphy of the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), one of the most remarkable and successful religious nationalist movements in postcolonial South Asia. The MQM has mobilized much of the migrant (Muhajir) population in Karachi and other urban centers in southern Pakistan and has fomented large-scale ethnic-religious violence. Oskar Verkaaik argues that urban youth see it as an irresistible opportunity for fun. Drawing on both anthropological fieldwork, including participatory observation among political militants, and historical analyses of state formation, nation-building, and the ethnicization of Islam since 1947, he provides an absorbing and important contribution to theoretical debates about political--religious and nationalist--violence. Migrants and Militants brings together two perspectives on political violence. Recent studies on ethnic cleansing, gecide, terrorism, and religious violence have emphasized processes of identification and purification. Verkaaik combines these insights with a focus on urban youth culture, in which masculinity, physicality, and the performance of violence are key values. He shows that only through fun and absurdity can a nascent movement transgress the dominant discourse to come of its own. Using these observations, he considers violence as a ludic practice, violence as martyrdom and sacrifice, and violence as terrorism and resistance.
Oskar Verkaaik is Assistant Professor at the Research Center for Religion and Society, University of Amsterdam, and head of the branch office of the International Institute for Asian Studies. He is the author of A People of Migrants and a popular book in Dutch based on his experiences in Pakistan.
Shortlisted for Choice Magazine Outstanding Reference/Academic Book Award 2004.