Theory from the Trenches: Revolutionary Decolonization on Pakistan's Landed Estates

Theory from the Trenches: Revolutionary Decolonization on Pakistan's Landed Estates
This historical ethnography explores theory's global itinerary and reinvention, focusing specifically on how peasant revolutionaries in Pakistan creatively theorized across various local and transnational traditions – including Marxism, Sufism, Baloch tribal ethics, and Siraiki nationalism – to further a revolutionary insurrection. During the 1970s, landless peasants began to occupy the country’s colonially-established landed estates (jagirs), later enrolling in a communist party. The party inspired peasants to see “theory”, now an emic category, as necessary to their liberation, even energizing some to theorize themselves. The dissertation historically narrates these peasants’ dramatic revolutionary lives, centering how they creatively stretched the communist party’s theory for their specific contexts, while also taking inspiration from radical movements across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. I conceptualize these subaltern experiments in theory-making, both in and beyond this fieldsite, as “trench theory”, with the trench metaphor flagging a mode of subterranean theorizing geared specifically toward political combat. To track this trench theorizing, I draw on 20 months of archival and field research in Pakistan, including oral histories, secret police surveillance files, the communist party’s internal literature, and the notebooks and diaries of landlords and peasant revolutionaries.


Shozab Raza

Defended in

1 Jan 2022 – 30 Nov 2022

PhD defended at

University of Toronto


Social Sciences


Global Asia (Asia and other parts of the World)
South Asia


Urban / Rural
National politics