Sana Ashraf

As a young woman growing up in a mixed-sect family in Pakistan, Dr Sana Ashraf spent her formative years grappling with how to be a good Muslim. This sparked her interest in religious and cultural understandings of purity and, later, their connection with violence. She formally studied this link first as a Master’s student in Anthropology at the Central European University and then as a PhD candidate at The Australian National University. This book is based on her PhD thesis, which has won multiple awards including the Australian Anthropological Society’s PhD Thesis Prize 2020. She now works in the policy sector in Australia on issues of gender and migration.

Finding the Enemy Within »

Blasphemy Accusations and Subsequent Violence in Pakistan

Authored by: Sana Ashraf
Publication date: September 2021
In the past decade, Pakistan has witnessed incidents such as the public lynching of a student on a university campus, a Christian couple being torched alive, attacks on entire neighbourhoods by angry mobs and the assassination of a provincial governor by his own security guard over allegations of blasphemy. Finding the Enemy Within unpacks the meanings and motivations behind accusations of blasphemy and subsequent violence in Pakistan. This is the first ethnographic study of its kind analysing the perspectives of a range of different actors including accusers, religious scholars and lawyers involved in blasphemy-related incidents in Pakistan. Bringing together anthropological perspectives on religion, violence and law, this book reworks prevalent analytical dichotomies of reason/emotion, culture/religion, traditional/Western, state/nonstate and legal/extralegal to extend our understanding of the upsurge of blasphemy-related violence in Pakistan. Through the case study of blasphemy accusations in Pakistan, this book addresses broader questions of difference, individual and collective identities, social and symbolic boundaries, and conflict and violence in modern nation-states.