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Do-it-Yourself Activism in Pakistan: The Fatal Celebrity of Qandeel Baloch

  • Zainab B. Alam
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.

Abstract

In July 2016, Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch was asphyxiated by her brother and gained posthumous celebrity in the West where her death was sensationally categorized as an honor-killing. Yet Qandeel was a celebrity in her own right among South Asians long before her death. Through skillful use of social media, she created new forms of public space and used them to challenge dominant social norms and political practices. I examine Qandeel’s “do-it-yourself activism”—her innovative use of the digital public sphere to position herself as a worthy representative of Pakistani nationality; to critique long-established norms governing gender, class, and sexuality; and to expand the boundaries of national belonging in Pakistan to include culturally rebellious women of limited economic means. By examining Qandeel’s audacious means of standing for Pakistan, her deployment of marriage proposals as a mode of subversive political activism within the political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice, PTI), and her use of visual culture (“selfies”) to challenge the moral authority of a powerful Islamic cleric, I theorize a form of political activism grounded in women’s agency that deploys celebrity to illuminate and politicize injustices.

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Footnotes

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She would like to thank Mary Hawkesworth, Cynthia Daniels, Mona Lena Krook, Kira Sanbonmatsu, and Sylvia Chan-Malik for their careful readings, helpful comments, and encouraging support throughout the evolution of this paper. She is incredibly grateful to have their scholarly expertise inform and inspire her research.

Footnotes

References

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Do-it-Yourself Activism in Pakistan: The Fatal Celebrity of Qandeel Baloch

  • Zainab B. Alam
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.

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A correction has been issued for this article: