The ‘Crooked Courtyard’ is a literal translation for the term ‘Aangan Terha‘. When asked to come up with a term to describe the particular public sphere I wanted to focus on in my media studies class , I could not think of a better title as it aptly bring to life the multifarious contestations and contingencies which exist in Pakistan’s public sphere. In Pakistan this term is inadvertently associated with a popular television series by the same name which provided very astute and witty commentary on the socio-political situation in the 1980s, clothed in the colorful garb of banter and satire. While the earthiness of popular colloquialisms is not quite translatable in formal discursive prose, one can only hope to bring to life the essence that it invokes and seek inspiration from it.
The classical symbolism of the ‘Courtyard’ in the Islamic public sphere is also significant here to describe the actual as well as the imaginary central space where ‘learning’ takes place whether ‘patronized from above’ or ‘initiated from below’. The proverbial courtyard as a heterogeneous space composed of ‘the great and the humble’, the young and the elderly, agnostics and believers, rulers and commoners can be a useful analytical space in Pakistan.
The idea for this blog’s name also came from a quote from one of Bertolt Brecht’s play…’If there are obstacles the shortest line between two points may well be a crooked line’. This truism seems to rings true for the neat disorderliness of the public sphere in Pakistan with the ‘terhi lakeer‘ symbolism it provides in translation.
Partha Chatterjee used this quote as the starting point for his famous work ‘Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World’ and noted in the preface that he wanted to name this book the ‘Crooked Line’ but was discouraged by ‘more knowledgeable’ acquaintances who felt that using such whimsical names would not be the best way to reach potential academic readers. However I take inspiration from his effort and the liberty to call this space the ‘Crooked Courtyard’ because while many of the discussions here are academically inclined, I would want these to be accessible to all who are interested in such conversation.