Disrupted City

Walking the Pathways of Memory and History in Lahore

A stunning history of Pakistan’s cultural and intellectual capital, from one of the preeminent scholars of South Asia

The city of Lahore was more than one thousand years old when it went through a violent schism. As the South Asian subcontinent was partitioned in 1947 to gain freedom from Britain’s colonial hold, and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was formed, the city’s large Hindu and Sikh populations were pushed toward India, and an even larger Muslim refugee population settled in the city. This was just the latest in a long history of the city’s making and unmaking.

Over the centuries, the city has kept a firm grip on the imagination of travelers, poets, writers, and artists. More recently, it has been journalists who have been drawn to the city as a focal point for a nation that continues to grab international headlines. For this book, acclaimed historian Manan Ahmed Asif brings to life a diverse and vibrant world by walking the city again and again over the course of many years. Along the way he joins Sufi study circles and architects doing restoration in the medieval parts of Lahore and speaks with a broad range of storytellers and historians. To this Asif juxtaposes deep analysis of the city’s centuries-old literary culture, noting how it reverberates among the people of Lahore today.

To understand modern Pakistan requires understanding its cultural capital, and Disrupted City uses Lahore’s cosmopolitan past and its fractured present to provide a critical lens to challenge the grand narratives of the Pakistani nation-state and its national project of writing history.

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