Professor Kristin Plys studies a Tea House in Lahore to learn about Resistance to Authoritarianism

Plys, KristinCoffee and tea have a long history of brewing resistance.  Professor Kristin Plys received funding from the Connaught New Researcher Award to study the role of the Pak Tea House in Lahore, Pakistan to understand the role the tea house played as a site of socialization for artists and intellectuals resisting authoritarianism in the twentieth century. This work builds on her previous research that studied the the New Delhi Indian Coffee House resistance movement during India’s period of postcolonial authoritarianism. For several decades in the early and mid-twentieth century, the Indian Coffee House in New Delhi and the Pak Tea House in Lahore were both vibrant sites of political deliberation and cultural expression.  When India briefly became a dictatorship in the 1970s, in fact, the Indian Coffee House location in New Delhi played a critical role in resistance against the postcolonial authoritarian state. The same, however, does not appear to have been true for the Pak Tea House when the Pakistani state tipped into political authoritarianism in 1977. This project seeks to understand the variation in trajectories between these two sites.

This project aims to learn the role of the Pak Tea House in shaping the political and cultural movements of the 1960s and 70s; trace the effect of Pakistani authoritarianism on the deliberative culture in the tea house and its clientele, along with their reaction to the democratic occlusion; and to determine which types of spaces of political deliberation help foster resistance against the state during periods of democratic occlusion. Professor Plys is using Connaught funding to travel to the archives in Lahore to evaluate their holdings and speak with key informants. In achieving her research objectives, this project will contribute to an understanding of the conditions that determine whether movements to restore democracy in postcolonial states succeed or fail.

Professor Plys is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching duties at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus. Her research interests  are at the intersections of political economy, postcolonial theory, sociology of development, labour and labour movements, historical sociology and global area studies. In addition to publishing on democracy in South Asia,  Professor Plys is also working on a book with Charles Lemert called Capitalism and its Uncertain Future.