This article analyzes the complex relationships between identity, politics, and civil strife. The author challenges the material, structural, and functionalist approaches to ethnic conflict that undervalue the role of ethnic and religious identities in communal behavior, seeing them as instrumental factors of civil strife. The article focuses on the intersection of identity and politics in Pakistan, addressing attributes of state and substate actors that jointly shape collective behavior. It aims to show how interactions between the state and substate groups outline “the politics of identity,” in which cultural and material concerns jointly define the agendas of kinship networks. The review of the complex Pakistani scene shows that the intersection of sectarian identities and politics generates fierce conflict that threatens to tear Pakistan apart, yet the confluence of ethnic networks and politics keeps the strife-torn country together.
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