Performing on the streets: Infrastructures of subaltern resistance in Pakistan

Awan, Nishat. 2021. Performing on the streets: Infrastructures of subaltern resistance in Pakistan. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 39(6), pp. 1274-1293. ISSN 2399-6544 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article explores infrastructures of subaltern resistance in Pakistan through a focus on spatial and performative modes and across a number of historical and contemporary examples. I start with the figure of the puppet, tracing it historically as an example of how culturally specific modes of dissent have evolved from a colonial to a postcolonial context, and further into a neoliberal space. I then analyse the practice of ‘wall chalking’, which could be considered a local form of graffiti that also embodies debates over religious and ethnic identity through the contested status of script in the country. In narrating these examples, my aim is to show how a specific form of resistance has developed in the country through the displacement of the dissenting subject. Here I conceptualise resistance as a Foucauldian counter-conduct that transforms space through a creative and embodied use of tactics. It is a form of subaltern resistance that emerges in relation to non-humans and everyday rituals and has developed in subtler (and more resistant) forms, through ways of enacting that thrive within and through the vulnerability of the subject.

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The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This articles relates to the Topological Atlas project, which has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 758529).


Subaltern resistance, vulnerability, performativity, non-human agency, counter-conducts, puppetry, graffiti

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


18 November 2020Published Online
September 2021Published

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Date Deposited:

10 Mar 2021 10:08

Last Modified:

10 Sep 2021 15:09

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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