National identities and the external other in Muslim majority contexts: youth narratives in Pakistan and Senegal

Naureen Durrani, Barbara Crossouard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper focuses on youth’s constructions of their national identities in two contrasting Muslim-majority contexts – Senegal and Pakistan – with very different histories of nation-state formation and post-independence trajectories. Drawing on case study research, we take up the historical specificities of their respective state formations and emergence as independent nations from their colonial past. After describing our theoretical frameworks and research methodology, we present our analysis of the identity narratives of 65 Pakistani and 75 Senegalese youth. We show that youth in both contexts were proud of their democracies, although with different inflections in each context. Our analysis shows that youth’s national imaginaries were predominantly produced with reference to significant external others which had deep historical roots. In Pakistan, this involved the external other of India, an articulation that has been historically sedimented on religious grounds since their partition. In more contemporary times, youth imaginaries of religion and nation remained intertwined, being constructed together against external others associated with the ‘War on Terror’. Similarly, religion was central to the national imaginaries of Senegalese youth. Senegal’s Sufi leaders were constructed as national icons and particularly valorised for their peaceful resistance to the colonial ‘other’. Youth also valued Senegal’s syncretic forms of Islam, constructing this against ‘jihadist’ Islam that they associated with other African, Middle Eastern and South Asian nations. Finally, our analysis highlights how the salience of external others in youth narratives in our two case studies worked to diminish the significance of internal differences and make internal power hierarchies invisible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314
Number of pages329
JournalSocial Identities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 29 2020


  • National identity
  • religion
  • Muslim youth
  • external other
  • Pakistan
  • Senegal


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