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Ruled by records: The expropriation of land and the misappropriation of lists in Islamabad



In this article, I investigate the ongoing battle between villagers on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, and the state development agency attempting to expropriate their land. This battle has been waged through the medium of documents, particularly lists, which villagers and colluding officials have used to defraud the Pakistani government of the equivalent of millions of dollars. Through this case study, I develop an approach to contemporary state governance as material practice, showing how government discourse is shaped by the material forms it takes and highlighting the issue of reference and predication (or how words relate to things). [governance, documents, state, semiotics, technology, materiality, South Asia, Pakistan]