Our next podcast episode on ‘Turning Negatives into Positives’ features three very interesting academics who life stories during this pandemic are worth sharing with everyone. Our first speaker is Sohaib Riaz (Author name: Sohaib Bodla), PhD candidate at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Munich, Germany, who will be talking to us about his love of philately (stamp collecting) and how the lock down has reconnected him with his childhood memories.
I started my field work in early January this year in Pakistan but had to stop in mid-March because like many, I wanted to be together with my family. I was lucky enough to board one of the last flights to reach Germany before the lockdown started. I spent the recommended quarantine time alone at home, while my wife and child stayed with my father-in-law. Along with transcribing my interviews and watching recommended movies, I decided to look deeper into my stamp collection, and decided to join a couple of Twitter platforms to showcase my collection and make new friends by sending and receiving postcards, writing letters, and exchanging stamps around the globe. This ‘Social Philately’ connected me to the memories of my early teen years when I had a pen friend. Since my current research is about part of Kashmir administered by Pakistan, I started looking into the stamps about Kashmir issued by Pakistan.
This led me to better see how stamps often become objects of contention, politics, fake pictures, and propaganda. Stamps are also objects which have historical, artistic, political, social, monetary, and aesthetic appeal. They are objects frozen in time revealing the past in a certain context. These characteristics were fascinating for my research and helped me to see the role objects play in our everyday lives. Rediscovering my hobby also helped me to see my own research from a different perspective by seeing the way Pakistan has presented Kashmir in the form of stamps.