Transition of Cultural Values in Gilgit

By Mona Abbas

This article discusses the altered values in Gilgit society as a result of COVID19-induced factors.

There is an old saying “Human is a social animal” and human being are usually gregarious in nature (one who enjoy being crowded, surrounded, and socialized).

Antagonistically, COVID-19 induced lockdown confined people to their homes. It restricted them from doing social gatherings, get together, visiting public places and meet other people by introducing the concept of social distancing. Which is opposing the concept of universal human nature.

Human nature is made to associate with others, to get socially involve and talk about it with other human beings. Shutting down and the slowdown of these activities gave rise to social disagreements and cultural disorder. The COVID-19 produced sudden social disengagement, social isolation and ultimately it headed alteration in cultural values.

In Gilgit, families are usually close (Joint family system) and cultural values are collectivist in nature. The society is collectivist therefore they celebrate every cultural ritual together in a group. So, sudden social disengagement, avoiding shaking hands and hugging (with family, friends, and guests) became problematic and heightened offensiveness among people. 

Eventually, traditional collectivist culture transits into more individualistic culture, where, people avoided to comply with cultural values of social interaction and avoided collectivist celebration of rituals. 

People decided to celebrate traditional rites on a lesser scale during COVID-19. They avoided seeing each other, even during rites of passage like as childbirth, marriage, and funerals.

While doing my research work for Master’s degree, I did field work of eight weeks, related to current topic in Gilgit and found that, those people who fall under the vulnerable group, like elderly people, pregnant women and women under postpartum period faced higher uncertain experiences. They went under a sense of xenophobia. 

Through qualitative research methodology, I found that, there were some major determinants, which were aiding the process.  The variables were lack of factual knowledge and social construction of meanings (concept of divine influences). 

Interpretations differ! Emic interpretations are not simple. People twig this pandemic with social and cultural untested meanings, socially constructed assumptions and recognized COVID-19 as divine punishment. They did not perceived COVID-19 as merely a medical emergency.

They assumed, pandemic is a punishment sent by God as a rebuke for disobedience and sin. Divine beliefs co-exist with the medical realities of disease, which are inseparable because these beliefs are embedded in socio-cultural processes and understandings of natives.

The contributor has a Master’s degree in Anthropology from International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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