Shorelines of Memory and Ports of Desire: Geography, Identity, and the Memory of Oceanic Trade in Mekran Coast (Balochistan)

By: Dr. Hafeez Jamali

Recent debates over the writing of history and ethnography in South Asia and the Middle East have asked whether categories such as transnationalism, globalization, and cosmopolitanism are adequate for thinking beyond the state-centric narratives and colonial governmentalities. Within this context, I trace the overlapping geographies of Mekran Coast in Balochistan Province, Pakistan with the larger Indian Ocean world to unsettle received ideas of imperial frontiers and national borderlands as isolated ‘savage spaces’. The presentation explores some iterations of ‘development’ in the late colonial and early postcolonial period to show how the colonial logics of infrastructure development influenced the attitudes of Pakistani planners and policymakers. I suggest that this seaward perspective allows us to re-imagine and frame Pakistan’s social geography beyond the dominant nationalist narratives and enables Baloch fishermen to critique Pakistani and international plans for shaping their present and future.