Accepted paper:

Home and University: The Aesthetics of Making Two Ends Meet


Shabnam Khan (National College of Arts)

Paper short abstract:

Taking my cues from the types of ideal Muslim womanhood, I examine the aesthetics--and the unaesthetics--of the experiences that educated middleclass Pakistani women encounter as they mediate the competing cultural demands of the traditional-Muslim home and the secular-modern university.

Paper long abstract:

In the context of my earlier study on the types of ideal Muslim womanhood, I show that university-educated middle-class Pakistani women encounter a range of competing cultural claims from the traditional-Muslim home and the modern-secular university. They have little choice but to mediate the rigid enunciations of the two different codes. Their personal biographies, which are connected both to their families and to institutions of learning, involve myriads of organized efforts to work on the self, which bind them in the bonds of affection and spiritual self-significance. Nonetheless, this set of conflicting cultural demands makes unexpected claims on their personhoods. The notion of being academically empowered carries an aura of being in control, and with it the responsibility to exercise that control in developing their own interests and growth as well as those of the people around them. Using psycho-cultural constructs of adult development and wellbeing, I re-examine in this paper women's self-stories about the cultural paradoxes to know how their experiences are either aesthetically wholesome, or unaesthetically squalid, based on how these empowered women do or do not take responsibility for, and remain in control of, the tensions that arise as they meet the virtually mandatory twin dictates of the two codes. In the process, I attempt to grasp the aesthetics of the lure that how they know themselves, and more importantly how they want themselves to be known, as educated women.

panel P03
Exploring aesthetic experiences and practices