BS (Social Sciences & Liberal Arts)

Faculty / School

School of Economics and Social Sciences (SESS)


Department of Social Sciences & Liberal Arts

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Date of Submission



Dr. Shehram Mokhtar, Assistant Professor & Program Coordinator, BS (SSLA), Department of Social Sciences


Ramsha Siddiqui, Lecturer, Department of Social Sciences

Project Type

SSLA Culminating Experience

Access Type

Restricted Access


The desert appears within colonial contexts as a marginalized space. Especially in the context of the late 19th century Punjabi desert, Cholistan, which had undergone extensive scrutiny by colonial technocrats who wanted to do away with it for the ambitious Punjab canal irrigation project.

This paper takes into consideration the discursive construction of the Cholistan desert in this period. It attempts to trace how the desert space and its inhabitants are read, understood, and represented from the colonial perspective as a space of unruliness and lack.

This paper puts this colonial perspective in engagement with the writing of the prominent late 19th century Seraiki poet, Khwaja Ghulam Farid. By contrasting the colonial rule’s scientific and technocratic approaches towards the desert space with Farid’s poetic imagery through his re-telling of the folktale of Sassi-Punhul, the paper proposes that Farid’s verses resist the discursive formation on a socio-political level.

The paper underlines the myriad of ways through which the desert functions, flourishes, and is entangled with other ecological landscapes. Similarly, the paper also accounts for the treatment of the inhabitants of desert under the Criminal Tribes Act and contextualizes Farid’s attempts re-write relations that exceed these technologies of political control. Conclusively, the paper argues that the Sufi-poetics through Farid’s work function as an alternative knowledge system that helps resist the colonial discursive formation regarding the desert. This project also unpacks the role of South Asian poetic cultures, political modernity, and orientalist approaches in engagement with Farid’s work.



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