The Critical Classroom – “Labour Geography of the National Question in Times of Decolonisation: Sharecropper Politics in Western Punjab, c. 1945–1953”

Kasim Ali Tirmizey (Concordia University)

Forthcoming in volume 55, number 1 of Antipode—the January 2023 issue—in “Labour Geography of the National Question in Times of Decolonisation: Sharecropper Politics in Western Punjab, c. 1945–1953” I examine the political actions of the Punjab Kisan (peasant) Committee (PKC) just before and after the formal independence of Pakistan in 1947. The article engages with the concept of “articulation” to show how sharecropper mobilisation in western Punjab linked anti-colonial nationalism with claims on labour, land, gender, and religion. It further reveals forgotten histories and geographies of national liberation struggles in the region for rethinking partition and independence. The article will be useful in upper-level undergraduate courses and graduate seminars in the areas of labour geography, postcolonial geography, and South Asian studies.

Labour Geography

The article can be used in courses in economic or labour geography to explore how labour control regimes are connected to land, national, and gender relations. This article could be used as an additional support for an assignment like a “labour geography autobiography”, examining the multiple processes that shape a personal work experience, from state regulations on land to how political formations like nationalism shape labour regimes. This article can help students see how exclusionary and liberatory forms of nationalist politics can come to shape labour relations.

Postcolonial Geography

The piece provides reflections on analysing the specific spaces and scales of anti-colonial politics, rather than as taken-for-granted as local, national, or international. The following resource provides archival materials on peasant, left, and anti-colonial movements that students can use to investigate the spatial dimensions of social and political movements.

Revolutionary Papers, “a transnational research collaboration exploring 20th century periodicals of Left, anti-imperial, and anti-colonial critical production”:

South Asian Studies

The article contributes to rethinking the geographies and histories of partition and independence in the Indian subcontinent. It generates debate about the meaning of anti-colonialism in South Asia beyond simple characterisations of anti-British politics or calls for political independence to reflect how it is linked with labour, land, gender, and religion. Possible discussion questions include:

What is anti-colonialism?

What is independence in the context of the Indian subcontinent?

What were the antagonisms through which anti-colonial movements operated?

How did place-based social relations shape ideas about Pakistan?

How does the history of the Punjab Kisan Committee make us rethink the moment of 1947?

Map of the partition of British India, The National Archives UK (