Completed: Doctoral research project:
Gender off course: subjectivities among fakir bodies of Sehwan sharif
Not far from the traces of an ancient civilisation, along the western banks of the legendary Indus, lies Sehwan, home to the most revered Sufi of Sindh, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar - his epithet, a most popular reference across Pakistan, his dargah (lit. shrine), a sanctuary for the poor and the distressed.
Here at the dargah of the ‘red Sufi’, one comes across individuals who refer to themselves as fakirs. Such individuals claim to have intercessory powers acquired through a rigorous process of bodily and spiritual discipline. Characterised by a certain tension between their household responsibilities and an individual calling, these fakirs put into question the stability of domains, familial and ascetic, male and female, piri and fakiri; worlds, which they frequently traverse but do not seek to stabilise.
Relying on self-representations in biographical narratives and participant observation of everyday practices, this study aims to explore across different contexts of spiritual exchange in Sehwan, i.e., the dargah, the kafi and the compound of the hermaphrodites, the ways in which the fakirs of Sehwan sharif, through a re-orientation of gender and bodily practices, come to articulate their subjectivities. In other words, the study documents how women, men and hermaphrodites relate to notions of body and gender in their articulation of fakiri as a category of self.