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Government of Paper

Government of Paper: The Materiality of Bureaucracy in Urban Pakistan

Matthew S. Hull
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Government of Paper
    Book Description:

    In the electronic age, documents appear to have escaped their paper confinement. But we are still surrounded by flows of paper with enormous consequences. In the planned city of Islamabad, order and disorder are produced through the ceaseless inscription and circulation of millions of paper artifacts among bureaucrats, politicians, property owners, villagers, imams (prayer leaders), businessmen, and builders. What are the implications of such a thorough paper mediation of relationships among people, things, places, and purposes?Government of Paperexplores this question in the routine yet unpredictable realm of the Pakistani urban bureaucracy, showing how the material forms of postcolonial bureaucratic documentation produce a distinctive political economy of paper that shapes how the city is constructed, regulated, and inhabited. Files, maps, petitions, and visiting cards constitute the enduring material infrastructure of more ephemeral classifications, laws, and institutional organizations. Matthew S. Hull develops a fresh approach to state governance as a material practice, explaining why writing practices designed during the colonial era to isolate the government from society have become a means of participation in it.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95188-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
    Ann Arbor
  6. Note on Translation and Transliteration
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-33)

    In the electronic age, documents appear to have escaped their paper confinement. And yet, we continue to be surrounded and even controlled by a flow of paper whose materiality has vast consequences. What are the implications of such a thorough paper mediation of relations among people, things, places, and purposes?Government of Paperaddresses this question by showing how the material forms of documentation and communication, the things I gather together under the term “graphic artifacts,” shape the governance of the planned city of Islamabad.¹ Governing paper is central to governing the city. And paper is also the means by...

  8. CHAPTER 1 The Master Plan and Other Documents
    (pp. 34-65)

    Islamabad is linked to Rawalpindi, a city in the Potohar region of Pakistan in Punjab province, by several miles of the Islamabad Highway, a divided four-lane road from which autorickshaws, ubiquitous in Rawalpindi, are banned. The car-driving classes frequently quip, “Islamabad is five minutes from Pakistan,” with Rawalpindi standing in for Pakistan. Poorer residents, often relegated to slower modes of intercity transport such as buses and minivans, more commonly joke, “Islamabad is ten minutes from Pakistan.” The joke is a comic recognition of one of the original goals of the Master Plan: to distance the government from the society it...

  9. CHAPTER 2 Parchis, Petitions, and Offices
    (pp. 66-111)

    The entire plan of Islamabad was a grand project to distance the government from the society it was to govern, an effort to use spatial isolation to engineer a social isolation of government servants from the wider populace. Similarly, the documentary regime through which the plan was administered was designed to institute a separation between the workings of government and those of the broader social world. But the spatial order of the city has been shaped by the social processes the plan sought to curtail, partly because documents such as the files of government apartments, house plans, and site maps...

  10. CHAPTER 3 Files and the Political Economy of Paper
    (pp. 112-161)

    Typically, between 3:45 and 4:15 p.m., toward the end of the office day, when his visitors—or at least the ones deserving his full attention—had left, Zaffar Khan would sigh and reluctantly reach for the buzzer to call his peon. He would mark his transition to a different mode of work by waving his hand in the direction of the coffee table and ordering his peon tersely, “Take it away” (Le jao), referring to the milk, sugar, soggy teabags, and numerous half-drunk mugs of tea left by the last of his visitors. Then he would say, “Call him,”...

  11. CHAPTER 4 The Expropriation of Land and the Misappropriation of Lists
    (pp. 162-209)

    Even at this writing, the boundless westward expansion envisioned by Doxiadis is stalled in the 11-series of sectors, just six miles from the president’s house. “Now there is no chance to go onward,” one town planner told me in 1997, waving his hand toward the western part of the city map on his wall, which showed the development status of each sector in a different color magic marker ink. “D-12, E-12, F-12, and G-12 were acquired, surveyed, planning prepared, and sold to others. But in the last seven years, nothing. Zero development. The locals didn’t allow us to enter the...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Maps, Mosques, and Maslaks
    (pp. 210-244)

    One day in 1997, I was talking with Raja Zahoor Ahmed in his sitting room about the prospect for his area being developed. Zahoor was the leader of Sheikhpur, a large village in the rural area of western Islamabad. Some years before, the village land had been expropriated by the city government, but the village remained undisturbed as disputes over compensation continued. Zahoor was recounting the many problems he had had with the Capital Development Authority. Capping his complaints, he declared that the CDA was not even planning mosques: “The CDA gets money for mosques, but this money is just...

  13. Conclusion: Participatory Bureaucracy
    (pp. 245-258)

    It is important not to overstate the extent to which paper practices have undermined the Master Plan and the institutional operations of the Capital Development Authority. Through the 11-series of sectors, the main elements of Doxiadis’s vision have been realized. The CDA employs thousands and, along with the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration under the Interior Ministry, controls municipal regulation, despite sporadic calls for a representative government for the city. However, the transformation of government housing allocation into an informal process, the return of mosques to the play of sectarian politics within the bureaucracy, and especially the astonishing halt to planned...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 259-274)
  15. References
    (pp. 275-288)
  16. Index
    (pp. 289-301)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 302-302)