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The Other View

Debate Culture Pakistan – the danka-nama

As some may have figured, the Rugpundits are all former members of the Pakistani cultural site Danka, among them also it’s co-founder and originator of the original page, Yasir. I have (among others) written Newsletters for Danka and after a long absence, with the launch of the new site, have decided to pick that practice up again. The idea is though, to make this newsletter, as the danka-nama, into a platform to debate anything that includes the concepts of culture and Pakistan (these terms of course also being the basic premises of the whole site). Yes, that is a wide and vague scope, but one that comprises a lot of interesting and controversial potential.

I do realise that this is no new idea, neither one that has a very important impact compared to other forms and forums of debate on culture in Pakistan and I have adressed this issue in danka-nama #3:

DANKA covers one front-end of culture – how it manifests itself in events in the public sphere. We do not cover the private (which unarguably has a much wider scope than the public, but may be overlapping), and we hardly cover what leads from the Pakistani self (as a nation, a society, a single person) to this manifestation in public. The danka-nama aims to go in that direction… […] It is of course important to note that the definition of such terms [culture, Pakistan] is hardly a process that will come to a definite end.  Also it happens at at least five diverse ends which exist in self-contained ways and I think  unfortunately seldom inspire each other. On the real side, there are institutions like Café Bol, the former Chitrkar, or T2F where such terms are shaped in life discussions and which probably provide the best space to actually bring ideas from different ends – from the intellectual to street talk – together. […] The space, which has the least relevance in shaping this quest for a common narrative, but with (at least outside the country) the single most impact on public perception, is the net-space (most importantly the blogosphere, including the newspapers which are more and more turning into blogs with a print-name). This includes of course the danka-nama. The question of course remains how this public perception is having it’s repercussion on the shaping of an understanding of Pakistani culture.

But from the feedback we have received on newsletters since their inception in 2005, I do think that there is potential for such a debate specifically. Therefore I want to encourage readers to contribute, with the prospect of a wide and interested readership mainly in Pakistan but also abroad (I will share outcomes from our user-poll at a later stage). The rules are simple:

  • Fortnightly we will publish anew – directly to your inbox and on www.danka.pk/danka-nama
  • Anything on culture goes – be it a critical approach to one of it’s numerous concepts in a Pakistan context, a review, a short story or poetry.
  • There is a limit to 3000 characters – if you feel that’s not enough space for what you want to say you can link to your own page where you may elaborate.
  • We encourage contributions in any of Pakistan’s languages, although anything not Urdu or English will need to be accompanied by a translation into one of the two.
  • We will judge quality strictly – poetry and prose need to be original, essays need to be well argued and claims backed by sources.

I especially want to encourage contributions in any Pakistani language – although we still have some technicalities to settle before Seraiki, Gurmukhi and Burushaski can be read properly on the page. Also at the moment, the danka-nama page online is still under construction and commenting is unfortunately only possible in a limited way. We are working on it, if you have questions you can contact me directly (jakob@danka.pk). You can subscribe to the newsletter on the Danka main page.

About Jakob Steiner

... lived, worked and studied in Australia, Europe and Asia.


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July 2011
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