John Mock & Kimberley O'Neil

Dissertation Abstract

Copies of this dissertation, catalog number 9922976, can be ordered from ProQuest.

The Discursive Construction of Reality
in the Wakhi Community of Northern Pakistan

by John Mock
Doctor of Philosophy in South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Professor Amin Sweeney, Chair

This dissertation shows how the performance of oral expressive forms represents and construes reality in the Wakhi community of northern Pakistan. It emphasizes the role of contextual reference to the physical, social, and cultural environment in studying how the interpretive patterns that shape perception and imbue the environment with meaning are reproduced and reformed discursively.

The dissertation reviews previous ethnic, linguistic, and historical representations of Wakhi people constructed through European classificatory systems in a politics of empire and boundary formation that left the Wakhi population of the Pamir-Hindukush-Karakoram mountain region segregated and marginalized.

Wakhi discourse is presented through original translations from transcriptions of recordings made during field research in the Shimshal, Avgarch, and Chapursan Wakhi communities in the Gojal area of northern Pakistan from 1995 to 1997. These communities speak Wakhi, a language with no written tradition that is one of the Pamir languages and part of the modern East Iranian group of the Iranian language family.

The dissertation contributes to the understanding of Wakhi phonology and of the effects of the introduction of transcription literacy on oral expression. Using Wakhi categories of genre, the dissertation discusses Wakhi poetry, praise stories, fictitious entertaining stories, and founding legends to present Wakhi people's perceptions of place and identity. The dissertation discusses the process of transmission and performance of oral expression within the Wakhi community and across ethnic and linguistic boundaries, identifies patterns of contextual reference that constitute interpretive communities, and proposes the concept of an interpretive area.

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