Is Gilgit Baltistan Pakistan safe?

Field research internship in Gilgit-Baltistan

From 2011 to 2013, the DAAD sponsored the cooperation between the Institute for Ethnology at LMU and the Karakoram International University (KIU) in Gilgit and the Quaid-I-Azam University (QAU) in Islamabad as part of the program for German-Pakistani research cooperation.

After a doctoral workshop on natural disasters and a film workshop - both took place in Islamabad in 2013 - four master's students and two doctoral students traveled with Martin Sökefeld for two months for the final stage of the cooperation Summer School Anthropological Fieldwork Methods in the Pakistani high mountain region of Gilgit-Baltistan. Professor Azam Chaudhary brought four students from the QAU's National Institute of Pakistan Studies with him from Islamabad. A workshop at the KIU was followed by a research phase in which the participants worked on various research projects. The results are incorporated into theses and a thematic issue on the ethnography of Gilgit-Baltistan in the journal Ethnoscripts.

Here is an overview of the research carried out by the Munich participants.


In search of the place of longing Hunza - Theresa Huber

Hunza - a kind of magic emanates from this valley. He casts a spell on everyone, foreign tourists, people from the Pakistani lowlands and the people of Hunza themselves. Hunza is not just a geographical location, but a synonym for a mythical place of longing. I want my work to trace the image that the people of Hunza created. There is no doubt that it is a place of breathtaking natural beauty, but in the course of time I had to discover that the picture was also fed by other sources. Religious and political issues or the rivalry to the opposite side of the valley rodents manifest themselves in the complex Hunza image, as do the traditions of the shamans and local historians that have been brought back into the collective consciousness through revitalization. The search for the parameters of the social construction 'Hunza' was also a journey into people's world of thought - and thus also into my own.


Garbage in Hunza - Michael Jogmin

Hunza and especially Karimabad attract tourists to the region year after year. In the course of the tourist development, new problem areas arise such as waste disposal. As the amount of imported goods from nearby China and the Pakistani lowlands increases, so does the amount of packaging waste. Structures for private waste disposal were created ten years ago. In 2012, this type of waste disposal - organized by a local NGO - was discontinued for various reasons. Organizations such as the “Town Management Society” (TMS) or the “Aga Khan Development Network” (AKDN) have been working on a solution for the joint disposal of waste that is as sustainable as possible since 2013. In doing so, they not only have to clarify questions of jurisdiction and land ownership, but also include religious differences and social tensions in the course of differences of opinion in their decision-making process.


Citizen Journalism - Claudia Stadler

Community journalism has been very popular in Gilgit-Baltistan for several years. More and more residents of the high mountain region are using the improved access to the Internet as an opportunity to participate in local reporting. Online news blogs are an extension of the region's previously thin public sphere. The interest in disseminating local information arises from various motives, such as exchanging ideas with emigrants, participating in public discourse, striving for transparency and documenting local traditions. The focus of the research was on networking the active citizens of the news blog Pamir Times. Citizen journalism as a new form of participation is to be understood in Gilgit-Baltistan above all in relation to traditional journalism and in the context of social conditions such as different religious affiliations, origins, education, etc.


Christians in Gilgit - Maria Beimborn

It is primarily the "state" that brings Christians to Gilgit-Baltistan. With the local presence of the state in the form of the military and other institutions, there are cleaning activities in public spaces that are stigmatized as “unclean” and are avoided by the local population. Such services are performed throughout Pakistan primarily by Christians who are mostly descendants of converts from the Chura sweeping caste. There are now around fifty Christian households in Gilgit

Religious minorities in Pakistan are in a precarious position in many respects. Christians suffer from poverty, violence, political and social discrimination, and the stigma of uncleanliness. The field research provided first insights into the situation of Christians in Gilgit. Special attention was paid to the strategies of the struggle for civil rights: the pastor used the legal gray areas and won the provincial right to vote for the "long-established residents"; against the resistance of local mullahs a Christian model colony with a church was built. How was that possible? On the one hand, with neighborhood help and strategic contacts with the city administration. On the other hand, through the curfew, which paralyzed Gilgit as a result of violent interdenominational disputes, but protected the construction activities from public criticism.


Women and Social Change - Anna-Maria Walter

The world of women in Gilgit-Baltistan has so far only rarely been the subject of ethnography. The life of women is characterized by the sometimes very rigid adherence to pardah, shaped by gender segregation. I examined the extent to which global ideas and technologies such as the mobile phone change, expand or even restrict women's everyday life. The very rural, purely Shiite Bagrot Valley near Gilgit, which was only connected to the mobile network in summer 2013, is suitable as a starting point for the study. The urban center of Gilgit was used as a comparison. The city is characterized by the strong segregation of the three resident Muslim denominations, Ismaili, Sunni and Shiite. Frequently acute conflicts between the groups have serious effects on women. At the same time, there is a very strong belief in progress throughout the region. In recent years there has been intense activism among the local population aimed at promoting education, information and “development”. The positive attitude towards change has so far only been clouded by the misuse of cell phones and is otherwise beneficial for women in expanding their radius of action. “Traditional” values ​​remain in place, but are constantly renegotiated in the changed context.


The female world at Karakoram International University (KIU) - Nadine Kriebel

The Karakoram International University (KIU) in Gilgit has around 2,300 students and was opened in 2002. Since then, young men and women, mainly from the Gilgit-Baltistan region, have been studying together here. In the course of their studies, many young women leave their parents' home for the first time and experience for the first time being taught together with men. The distance to the family and the constant confrontation with the opposite sex lead to inner conflicts for many female students. In my field research, I was interested in how the young women shape and experience their everyday life in the student dormitory and at the university and how they do so pardah- Rules to be negotiated at the university.