Field Initiative 1. Pakistan

Place, Heritage and Resistance in the Wakhan Corridor, Pakistan

Project Coordinator: Javairia Shahid, UIC, School of Art & Art History, PhD Student in Art History

Supervisor: Ömür Harmanşah, UIC, Associate Professor of Art History

The Wakhan Corridor, a strip of treacherous terrain bordering China, Pakistan and Tajikistan became a region of political conflict between the British and the Russians in 1880s. With the British colonial intervention, this forgotten region became the site of scientific documentation: every inch was measured, and mapped; the indigenous life was recorded and photographed. Following the fall of the British Empire, the region was managed under the emergent nation state through environmental governance and bio-political management of its population. Finally, in 1996, the Shigar Fort in Karimabad, and residential areas on its perimeter were restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and soon became a popular tourist attraction. Funded largely by the Aga Khan Foundation and hailed as pioneer in heritage management, this project produced a new lexicon of architectural heritage that emphasized the genealogy of Islamic architecture and its global nature. In light of this complex genealogy of interventions, this field initiative aims to investigate the political ecology of the Wakhan corridor with respect to place, identity, local environment, and cultural heritage. Through a study of the Shigar Fort restoration and its perception among its users and inhabitants, this initiative highlights the negotiations and frictions between the global narrative of development and local strategies of resistance.