The Hairbrush and the Dagger
Mediating Modernity in Lahore
Richard McGill Murphy
Our language can be seen as an ancient city: a maze of little streets and squares, of old and new houses, and of houses with additions from various periods; and this surrounded by a multitude of new boroughs with straight regular streets and uniform houses.
LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN, Philosophical Investigations
He who has not seen Lahore is yet unborn.
REPRESENTATION IN LAHORE AND IN ANTHROPOLOGY
Debates about the nature and value of modernity permeate daily life in Lahore. I argue, accordingly, that competing representations of modernity are in large part strategies through which Lahoris negotiate the business of everyday life. These strategies often involve the conscious or unconscious manipulation of class rhetoric—the words, arguments, and turns of phrase that mark membership in a range of situationally constructed social groupings. 1 I read local discourses of religion, class, gender, and politics contrapuntally, in Edward Said's (1993) sense of the term, to achieve a multiple perspective on the rhetorical construction of modernity in urban Pakistan. These constructions take the form of texts drawn from newspapers and television dramas, from the sermons of Muslim preachers, and from the conversation of my Lahori informants. The argument (and, where I use it, the ethnographic present tense) is based on fieldwork conducted in Lahore between 1992 and 1994.
It is argued that what I call a crisis of social representation in urban Pakistan is best analyzed as a debate whose rhetorical positions undercut the naturalistic representation of truth by a constant questioning of the moral authority conveyed by any particular perspective on the social world. Perspectival multiplicity, uncertainty, and moral ambiguity are fundamental to the rhetorical strategies through which Lahoris construct and act upon the world. My analysis distinguishes three broad, often clashing moral perspec-