Of Mothers and Widows: Militarism’s Intractable Subjects

Maria Rashid’s seminar focused on the various ways in which the discursive and material processes of militarization engage the ‘feminine’ or the ‘female subject’. She structured her talk by discussing the different ‘sites’ at which the Pakistani military interacts with the mothers and widows of dead soldiers, arguing that at each site, the female subject’s affect is managed by the military institution. During soldier training, there’s a push to distance oneself from the ‘feminine’ and at village funerals there is a disciplining of the way in which women express their grief for the shaheed. On the other hand, the same grief is invoked in commemorative ceremonies by creating spectacles of mourning around the azeem mother and wife of the shaheed. Dr. Rashid discussed in great length this need of the military institution to police the female subject’s affect, as well as constantly engage with it. The question and answer session lead to further discussions on the emotive power of the commemorative ceremonies, the various ways in which the concept of ‘shaheed’ has been understood and debated and the structure of compensation schemes for widows.