Female Desire, Forbidden Love and Forgotten Archives: Sexual Politics in 1960s Pakistani Cinema by Kamran Asdar Ali


Kamran Asdar Ali focused on the film Saheli (1961) to open up the question of domestic life and sexuality in Pakistan by turning to an underused archive, cinema. Indeed, by concentrating primarily on women’s lives as depicted in this film, he did not seek to dismiss the importance of other studies, but to make an added and necessary argument: 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. The presentation discussed women’s representation in the popular media in Pakistan in order to create a different archive of cultural and sexual politics and histories. Ali further discussed Neela Parbat a 1969 Pakistani Urdu film directed by Ahmad Bashir. The film did not do well at the box office and dealt with the theme of incest and other sexual themes. It was only the second film that received an “Adult Only” certificate (the other being the horror film, Zinda Lash). The presentation discussed how themes of same sex desire, incest and other “taboo” subjects were brought forward in Pakistani cinema.

Kamran Asdar Ali is and professor of Anthropology, Middle East Studies and Asian Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. He has served as Acting Dean of the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences at LUMS. Research interests include health and gender, ethnicity, class politics, sexuality, and popular culture. He is the author of Planning the Family in Egypt: New Bodies, New Selves (University of Texas 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).His most recent book is Communism in Pakistan: Politics and Class Activism 1947-1972 (2015).

Location: Lahore Museum, Mall Road

Date: February 29, 2020