Shortlisted in the 2020 IPS Book Award, sponsored by the ISA International Political Sociology Section.
The Pakistan Army is a uniquely powerful and influential institution, with vast landholdings and resources. It has deep roots in the colonial armed forces and relies heavily on certain regions to supply its soldiers, especially parts of rural Punjab, where men have served in the army for generations. These men, their wives and mothers, and the military culture surrounding them are the focus of Maria Rashid's Dying to Serve, which innovatively and sensitively addresses the question: how does the military thrive when so much of its work results in injury, debility, and death? Taking ritual commemorations of fallen soldiers as one critical site of study, Rashid argues that these "spectacles of mourning" are careful manipulations of affect, gendered and structured by the military to reinforce its omnipotence in the lives of its subjects. Grounding her study in the famed martial district of Chakwal, Rashid finds affect similarly deployed in recruitment and training practices, as well as management of death and compensation to families. She contends that understanding these affective technologies is crucial to challenging the appeal of the military institution globally.
About the author
Maria Rashid has been associated with the field of gender, violence against women, and children as a feminist practitioner, trainer, and researcher. A psychologist by training, she also serves on the boards and advisory committees of a number of organizations within and outside of Pakistan.
"This absorbing and troubling book grapples with the puzzle of how the Pakistani military can hold the devotion and loyalty of so many citizens while promising them endless wars, death, and impairment. Rashid's thoughtful and at times harrowing account draws on sensitive ethnography with families of martyrs and unprecedented access to military ceremonies to weave a persuasive argument about the power of martyrdom and ritualistic mourning as technologies of rule."
—Laleh Khalili, Queen Mary University of London
"This is a unique contribution to critical studies of contemporary militarism as a global phenomenon, while simultaneously casting light on an institution that is not well understood outside its own national context. Ethnographic studies of military organizations are extremely rare due to the excessive secrecy of the defense sector, but Maria Rashid is able to demonstrate why and how gender is so central to this web of institutional and ideological power. This highly original study shows that we can learn about the appeal of military service by engaging with those who stand to lose the most from its allure: the women whose sons and husbands die in uniform."
—Vron Ware, Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, Kingston University
"This book is the only text on the Pakistan army that ethnographically focuses on the lives (and deaths) of non-commissioned soldiers and not of senior commissioned officers. By sharing with us the voices of next-of-kin of martyred soldiers, especially women, it weaves a nuanced argument that shows the affective dissonance between women's feelings of regret and anger about their lost sons and husbands and the public affirmation of their sacrifice. It hence explores the gap between the everyday experiences of families that mourn their dead sons in rural Pakistan and the idealized image of the martyr that saturates nationalist representations. Maria Rashid, by brilliantly using tropes of paradox and ambivalence in this excellent book, tells us a story that interplays between nationalism, sacrifice, and masculinity in contemporary Pakistan. Further, unlike many renditions on the Pakistani military, this exceptional text does not focus on the coercive aspect of the army; rather, it enables us to understand the persuasive powers through which this potentially hegemonic entity seeks to create consensus in an effort to produce ideological conformity."
—Kamran Asdar Ali, Professor of Anthropology, The University of Texas at Austin
"A good read for those who want to understand militarism in Pakistan as well as why the military has become the centerpiece of Pakistani society for decades."
—Shuja Nawaz, The Friday Times
"[A] must-read for all, especially those who once believed in the narrative of militarism and the sanctity of military deaths but were confused when the layers of this social construct began to peel off."
—Kamaldeep Singh Sandhu, Strife
"Rashid's book is a sobering reminder that military dominance over civilians is unlikely to change in Pakistan in the foreseeable future."
—Rana Banerji, The Indian Express
"Psychologist Maria Rashid has produced an extraordinary survey in which she seeks to demonstrate the Pakistan military has used death in combat, particularly the concept of martyrdom, as a tool to extend its domination over the country's political and civil society."
—Arnold Zeitlin, South Asia Journal