Theses Doctoral

“Pray for My Results:” Making One’s Self Worthy for Employment in Lahore

Sattar, Muntasir

In this dissertation, I explore how male university graduates in Lahore go about securing mainly government employment. Ethnographic exploration of what seems to be an individual quest in the temporal juncture between completing a degree and securing full time employment is in fact an intensively social and political process. Participant observation of these career-building endeavors in and around a hostel, an ‘academy,’ and in a call center speaks to the way graduates orient themselves and endeavor to create their future in a stratified society. Accounts of experiences of job seekers reveal how different forms of capital are mobilized in educational processes. The goal that shapes aspirations and strategies is that of elite government service, indicative of a time of anemic economic growth and perceived political instability. The state then sets the standard for achievement of graduates’ career goals, motivated by security, status, and stability. Thus, the state looms large in the ways young men figure their future, in a way, becoming an arbiter in an encounter between job seekers and the structure of power relations. That is, unemployed graduates need to become worthy or achieve merit, adjusting or cultivating one’s habitus in order to get there.
The foregoing suggests power relations in the eyes of young men are configured not only through social or cultural capital but by political capital. I thus highlight power in the self-making process that produces what I argue could be seen as a culturally-specific middle class subjectivity. I make the case for a ‘habitus’ that can be cultivated and shaped by political and economic conditions, loosening theory’s conceptual rigidity while highlighting the ways it mediates the temporal juncture between education and employment.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Anthropology
Thesis Advisors
Ewing, Katherine
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 13, 2016