‘We Were Doing Work on a Cultural Front’: Postcolonial Politics and Poetics in Lahore’s Pak Tea House during the Zia Military Dictatorship (1977-1988)

Kristin Plys, University of Toronto

In 1977, Pakistan’s 9th Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was ousted by a military coup and later hanged. Protest poetry and art that was being created by regulars of the Pak Tea House, an iconic salon for Lahore’s art, literary, and poetic movements, inspired resistance. But the tea house denizens framed their protest not just against the military dictatorship, but also against the hegemonic ideologies of US imperialism. In so doing, I contend, Pak Tea House regulars not only offered a counter-ideology against the hegemon, but in the process, the political subjecthood of Pak Tea House regulars was remade. To make this macro-micro link, I read Louis Althusser’s concept of the Ideological State Apparatus on a global scale using Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, Frantz Fanon’s postcolonial class structure, and World Systems Analysis to show the role of development ideologies in the establishment of hegemonic ISAs which created concrete subjects to the hegemony. Then, by examining the tension between Walter Rodney and Frantz Fanon’s views on the ideal role of the postcolonial artist or intellectual, along with Althusser’s concept of interpellation, I show how the artistic and literary work that was created by regulars of the Pak Tea House undid what the ISA had created by offering a form of resistance but also remaking the political subjecthood of the participants in the process.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 90. Ideologies and Political Formations