Kafkaesque, a term which can be used to construe a postcolonial confusion called Pakistan. It is such a pity that in order to construct and deconstruct Pakistan, one has to wear European lenses. Like a true colonial residue, the European knowledge structures till this day help us Pakistanis to make sense of our own reality. The bureaucratic mess that was instilled by the British to control the ‘uncivilized’ population of the Indian Sub-Continent in the 19th century has evolved into the Kafkian reality of every Pakistani today. An everyday struggle that an ordinary Pakistani has to navigate on a daily basis to ensure survival. A state that is so infatuated with its security that it has raised a population of survivalists.
Once Edward Said famously said that theories travel, both through time and in their contextualisation. Hence, this time around, an attempt was made to stand on the shoulders of ideologues, such as Michel Foucault and Judith Butler and embark on a journey with an aim to build a new understanding of the Kafkaesque state of Pakistan. Believers of Buddha say that the climacteric flaw in life is not sin but our failure to misunderstand reality. Understanding reality is a daytime nightmare for a student of social sciences: the dreaded questions of ontology and epistemology which became a lifelong struggle for brains like Socrates, Nietzsche, Hegel, Kant, Foucault, and Butler.
Feeling pale in front of such monstrous reality deconstructionists, I as a researcher struggle to devise anything new to say. However, using a poststructuralist lens, there is an opportunity to assign new meanings to old subjects and ideas. Therefore, I conclude in my PHD thesis that the working of power mechanisms is highly relative to the socio-cultural context of discourses. Hence, the way the concepts of self and body matter to power are not fixed. Likewise, the emergence and maintenance of discourses cannot be fixed either. Keeping this in mind, the historical and cultural convergence and progression of discourses can play a significant role for policy makers, educational researchers, and academics to investigate social issues in a constantly evolving world. In a nutshell, we all human beings are similar but diverse at the same time. Similarly, we all are part of this singular reality but at the same time this singularity diversifies itself into a multitude of realities. Each strand of it is unique and diverse.
Yes, a particular theoretical framework, for example, Foucault’s concept of discourse, can be applied to grasp the working of securitization discourse in Pakistan. However, it might bring forward a new reality of security issues of Pakistan from a diverse perspective but that does not mean this new conceived reality is absolute and holds within itself all the answers to the functioning of power mechanisms in an ideologically driven postcolonial-security state of Pakistan. But, it tells us that, while Western theoretical lenses can be borrowed to grasp the social construction of knowledge in a postcolonial setting, once applied outside their contexts they can exhibit limitations as well.
For my doctoral study I adopted a poststructuralist-qualitative methodological approach, and twenty-eight elite interviews were conducted with officials from five cohorts: the army, religious scholars, bureaucrats, educationists, and third-sector officials. The rationale behind the selection of participants was developed keeping in mind the significance of their influence on the issues of security, gender, and education in Pakistan. The thesis discerns that in a postcolonial society such as Pakistan, the creation of subjects within discourses diverges from the creation of the Foucauldian subject in European society. The epiphany moment of my doctoral research occurred on a rain drenched Glaswegian night, when skimming through The Foucault Reader at the Main Library of Glasgow University, I came across Foucault’s quote: We need to cut off the king’s head – in political theory that still has to be done (p. 63)
I argue that in the context of a postcolonial state, such as Pakistan, the head of the king was cut off by colonists. Therefore, political theory has different issues to struggle against in a postcolonial context. Consequently, acknowledging the diversity of discourses and the varied working ways of power among distinct societies and cultures, through my PhD research study I suggest that within the realm of education, discourses and power should be studied and explored keeping in mind their social and cultural relevance and differences. The thing which I understood through my PhD journey is that in the domain of social theory the end goal is not to reach a singular reality but to identify and carve out various ways that can lead to a multitude of realities. It is not about the reality of a state or an individual, whether it is Kafkaesque or postcolonial but the ways we differ in our approaches to understanding the same state and the same individual.