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Moral atmospheres: Islam and Media In a Pakistani Marketplace
[Paperback - 2024]
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Sub-category: Pakistan Studies
Additional Category: Sociology - Mass Communication
Publisher: Columbia University Press | ISBN: 9780231210416 | Pages: 288
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Lahore’s Hall Road is the largest electronics market in Pakistan. Once the center of film and media piracy in South Asia, it now specializes in smartphones and accessories. For Hall Road’s traders, conflicts between the economic promises and the moral dangers of film loom large. To reconcile their secular trade with their responsibilities as devoted Muslims, they often look to adjudicate the good or bad moral “atmosphere” (mahaul) that can cling to film and media. Timothy P. A. Cooper examines the diverse and coexisting moral atmospheres that surround media in Pakistan, tracing public understandings of ethical life and showing how they influence economic behavior. Drawing on extensive ethnographic work among traders, consumers, collectors, archivists, cinephiles, and cinephobes, Moral Atmospheres explores varied views on what the relationship between film and faith should look, sound, and feel like for Pakistan’s Muslim-majority public. Cooper considers the preservation and censorship of film in and outside of the state bureaucracy, contestations surrounding heritage and urban infrastructure, and the production and circulation of sound and video recordings among the country’s religious minorities. He argues that a focus on atmosphere provides ways of seeing moral thresholds as mutable and affective, rather than as fixed ethical standpoints. At once a vivid ethnography of a market street and a generative theorization of atmosphere, this book offers fresh perspectives on moral experience and the relationship between religion and media.

Timothy P. A. Cooper is an anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

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