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3 - Indigenous Polo in Northern Pakistan: Game and Power on the Periphery

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2012

Peter Parkes
Affiliation:
University of Kent
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Summary

Introduction

G. Whitney Azoy's Buzkashi: Game and Power in Afghanistan (1982) is an exemplary ethnography of Asian sport. Focusing on the social and political mobilization of this dramatic equestrian game, Azoy moved well beyond a conventional hermeneutic interpretation of sport as ritual display, and highlighted the broader social and performative functions of buzkashi tournaments. These were force-fields of national and regional ethnicity: they enacted a distinctive ethnic identity among minority Uzbeks of northern Afghanistan, conveying their own regional aspirations of rugged autonomy from the alien hegemony of Pashtun officials in Kabul, who were attempting to appropriate this prestigious tribal game as a national Afghan sport. The patronage of Uzbek khans sponsoring the game was thereby reduced to brokerage with the regional Afghan Governor and his bureaucratic entourage of Pashtun athletic officials. By the 1970s these had already imposed their own disciplinary apparatus of civilizing rules and penalties on the game, together with national (Pashtunist) civilizing discourses of government propaganda. Azoy's historical ethnography of successive Afghan appropriations of the tribal Uzbek game from the 1950s thus exemplified societal changes of Weberian magnitude: a political transition from ‘traditional, patrimonial’ to ‘national-bureaucratic’ modes of authority and ideology which occurred within a single generation in mid-twentieth century Afghanistan and the repercussions of which, in terms of regional, ethnic and sectarian strife, remain unresolved.

This essay outlines a comparable historical ethnography of the similar equestrian sport of indigenous polo in neighbouring regions of northern Pakistan.

Type
Chapter
Information
Subaltern Sports
Politics and Sport in South Asia
, pp. 61 - 82
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2005

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