Accepted Paper:

Fieldwork under surveillance in Northern Pakistan  


Anna Grieser (LMU Munich)

Paper short abstract:

Dissecting my fieldwork in Northern Pakistan, that took place under the not-so-secret surveillance and interference by secret agencies, I want to discern implications of their engagement, which is locally understood as the corrupted authority of the state, striking foreigners and locals alike.

Paper long abstract:

In Northern Pakistan, mistrust coins everyday life and the patterns of social interaction, at least since the times of the British in the 19th century. Dissecting my fieldwork in the area of Gilgit-Baltistan, I want to make use of the experiences with secret intelligence agencies and their officers, who severely monitored my research and activities in a not-so secret way. As has been argued before, mistrust shapes social relations between local people, and is fanned by the distrust from side of the state and its various institutions, as well as the mutual suspicion between (mostly) non-local officers and local people. Furthermore though, the suspicious state also takes its bearing in regard to foreigners. While foreigners from "the West" commonly enjoy a status between admiration and bewilderment among the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, they are monitored with suspicion and distrust by state officers. Setting off from this basis, I want to relate my fieldwork encounters with the intelligence officers, and how they were fanned by gossip, malignant rumours, power games, sexual frustration and jealousy. Drawing on local reactions towards the officers´ engagement, I want to discuss local strategies to consider and counter, what is locally understood as the corrupted and arbitrary authority from down-country Pakistan which strikes foreigners and locals alike.

Panel P085
Under suspicious eyes: surveillance states, security zones and ethnographic fieldwork