Social Media Representations of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, and their relation to Metropolitan Domination: The Case of Attabad Lake
This thesis links the colonial and post-colonial representational history of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan with new actors, emerging representational practices, and contemporary cellular, digital, and virtual modes of representation. The power-laden, partial, and exclusionary nature of colonial representations is well established; this thesis investigates the emerging role of new actors, virtual spaces, and altered representational practices in relation to colonial and post-colonial representations. In order to do this, the thesis examines the representational practices of a range of local and down-country Pakistani actors in virtual spaces, as they relate specifically to the Attabad Lake, a natural disaster turned tourist hotspot in Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan. Situating Attabad’s touristification (itself a product of improved road links, cellular connectivity and the site’s visual attractiveness) against the backdrop of colonial and postcolonial representational practices pertaining to Gilgit-Baltistan, I analyze how virtual spaces act as institutional platforms for the production and reproduction of predominantly orientalist discourse. Using textual and pictorial evidence from four virtual data streams (two Facebook pages and two Instagram accounts), I develop the argument that contemporary online representations of Attabad constitute Gilgit-Baltistan discursively in ways that perpetuate (and sometimes disrupt) longstanding colonial and postcolonial portrayals of the region and its people. A significant effect of these online representations is to legitimate Gilgit-Baltistan’s political, economic and cultural domination and control by lowland Pakistan and the Pakistani state.