Religion in Spaces of Social Disruption: Re-Reading the Public Transcript of Disaster Relief in Pakistan

March 2015 (VOL. 33, NO. 1)

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This paper explores how everyday religious narratives in post-disaster contexts can be interpreted as key sites of agency articulated in resistance to dominant discourses of disaster relief. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among affected communities after the 2010 floods in Pakistan, we argue that religious discourses code everyday actions with political meaning and significance. Deploying Scott’s (1990) theorization of hidden transcripts and everyday acts of resistance, as well as Mahmood’s (2005) more recent framing of agency as a capacity for action, we argue that local communities are dynamic political actors capable of transformative interventions even in the wake of major disasters and the relief efforts that ensue in their wake. By exploring how religious narratives are mobilized by local communities we seek to better understand how the post-disaster arena is used to rework concepts of ‘beneficiaries’, ‘relief provision,’ and ‘religion.’