2022 Keynote Speaker

Dr. Kamran Asdar Ali
President, Association for Asian Studies
Professor of Anthropology
University of Texas

Kamran Asdar Ali is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin. He is the author of Planning the Family in Egypt: New Bodies, New Selves (UT Press, 2002) and the co-editor of Gendering Urban Space in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa (Palgrave 2008), Comparing Cities: Middle East and South Asia (Oxford 2009) and Gender, Politics, and Performance in South Asia (Oxford 2015). He has published several articles on issues of health and gender in Egypt and on ethnicity, class politics, sexuality and popular culture in Pakistan. His more recent single authored recent book is Communism in Pakistan: Politics and Class Activism 1947-1972 (I.B Tauris 2015). He is Co-Editor of the forthcoming volume, Peoples Histories of Pakistan (Bloomsbury 2022) and is co-writing a book with Iftikhar Dadi on Pakistani Cinema in the 1960s (Asia Shorts).  He is currently serving as the President of Association of Asian Studies.

Keynote Speech
Female Friendship and Frictions: Sexual Politics in 1960s Pakistani Cinema

By focusing on the Pakistani film Saheli (1961) the paper seeks to open up the questions related to emotions, domestic life and sexuality in Pakistan. Indeed, by concentrating primarily on women’s lives as depicted in this film (and other cultural artefacts), I do not seek to dismiss the importance of other studies, but to make an added and necessary argument. It enables me to make visible and audible those instances that may have historically enabled women (and men) in Pakistan to create emotional fields and varied forms of connections to each other. Hence the analysis opens up an argument about women’s representation in the popular media in Pakistan in order to create a different archive of women’s cultural and sexual politics and histories. This said, I would admit that my attempt while providing insights into women’s lives in Pakistani society, remains partial as it suggests a reading and constructs a narrative that may be only available in small fragments. It is akin to, as the historian Joan Scott (2011) reminds us, an archaeological reconstruction of a pot from shards and pieces found in a dig.