Agents of Insecurity: a postcolonial perspective on policing in Urban Pakistan

Event date
2 March 2022
Event time
16:00 - 17:30
Oxford week
HT 7
LIVE ONLINE SEMINAR - Please register below
Dr Zoha Waseem

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How is insecurity created, experienced, and reproduced both within and by public policing institutions in South Asia? Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork in Pakistan, I explore how subordinate police officers experience insecurity within postcolonial policing structures due to institutional inequality and class-based hierarchies, and analyse how these factors shape officers' decision-making. I suggest that in the face of security-centric interests and demands placed on the police, coupled with institutional inequality that suppresses the rank-and-file and creates structural barriers, subordinates rely on informal policing practices to secure greater personal and professional gains and navigate class-based constraints. Therefore, in the face of institutional discrimination, uncertainty, and private patron demands, police work necessitates reliance upon what I call 'strategic informality'. Further, I show how the manifestation of informality in policing, in Pakistan particularly but South Asia at large, is a product of both colonial and postcolonial structural, institutional, and relational dynamics. 

Speaker biography

Zoha Waseem

Dr Zoha Waseem is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick. Her research focuses on policing in Pakistan, postcolonial and critical perspectives on policing, and relations between policing and marginalized communities, including migrants and ethnic minority groups. She teaches in the areas of policing and critical criminology.

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