A young man who turns his desire to join the army into a long stint as a volunteer ambulance driver. A teacher living in an old slum who is the only one brave—or foolish—enough to confront the gangs. A refugee who becomes a community organizer. A woman in a traditional village looking at the new development quickly encroaching on their land. A bored engineer who finds his calling as a crime reporter.
Sindh, the “homeland” of the eponymous ethnic group, is in what is now Pakistan. In India, Sindhis often call themselves the Jews of India because they do not have a territory of their own, especially in a nation that is internally organized around linguistic ethnicities. Their request for things that other linguistic communities enjoy, such as having a government-owned Sindhi language channel, largely go ignored. Time and again, they are questioned for their loyalty: sometimes for naming their local businesses after Karachi, and sometimes for the removal of the word “Sindh/Sindhu” from India’s national anthem. But it’s not that a defined territory would guarantee political success for the Sindhis in Sindh are not doing very well either, politically, economically, and culturally. A look at Asma Faiz’s book In Search of Lost Glory: Sindhi Nationalism in Pakistan confirms this by showing that Sindhis in Sindh have also been struggling to assert their identity.
As difficult as it may be now to imagine it, there was an Afghanistan at peace before the “forever wars” which now consume it. Nancy Lindisfarne-Tapper’s research among Piruzai Durrani Pashtun of Northern Afghanistan in the 1970s is a record of that other not-in-the-news Afghanistan.
Living along a border can be literally living on the edge, for borders are places of uncertainty where death, humiliation and misery can be all too common. As Suchitra Vijayan points out in her book Midnight’s Borders, this is where entire communities can become stigmatized as foreigners, illegals, smugglers and traitors.
One can forget, when reading this gentle translation, that Li Juan’s account of her time with nomadic Kahakh herders in China’s Altay prefecture, was not written for us, the anglophone audience. Not only was Winter Pasture written in Chinese for a Chinese readership, it was a critical and commercial success. It’s easy to see why.
From its more mainstream, business-focused and business-friendly “Lean In” variants, to more radical, critical and intersectional understandings of feminism, the past decade has seen a flourishing of discussion from those proposing and critiquing different schools of thought for the way we think about gender in society.
The title promises racy South Asia noir: what happened, who did it, and whether they got away with it. But Samira Shackle’s Karachi Vice actually concerns the lives of five people in that city, as violence—criminal and political—consumes everything around them. They receive no protection from the state as they go about their daily lives. Through their lives we understand this city, one where criminals fight it out while people around them simply try to survive. This is a book about the after-effects of many crimes.