The Demographic State: Population, Citizens, and the Family in Pakistan, 1947-71


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




“The Demographic State” traces histories of population management to analyze state-making and unmaking in East and West Pakistan. It argues that Pakistan was not simply a Cold War laboratory, but rather a critical geography in the production of global demographic knowledge. Drawing on materials from social scientists, medical professionals, women’s welfare activists, bureaucrats, and Islamic modernists, this study demonstrates how family planning became an intimate site through which Pakistani citizens experienced the state. In so doing, it explores the emergence of the postcolonial family as an object of transnational development. This was not solely driven by imperatives of economic growth, but also reshaped concepts of public health, technology, gender, and religious authority. These transnational projects of population control stimulated debate over state power, modernization, and foreign aid in Pakistan—ultimately shaping protests against Ayub Khan’s authoritarian regime. Based on multi-sited archives and interviews, this study examines how the encounter between postcolonial sovereignty and global development unfolded in everyday Pakistan.