In the aftermath of 9/11, with respect to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan have been the site of immense violence and destruction, including from US drone attacks, ground military operations by the Pakistan Army, and retaliatory attacks by different factions of Taliban fighters. Using uncertainty as an analytic and ethnographic concept, this article traces the social life of the rumors, conspiracy theories, and stories that float around this violence. It draws attention to their multiple and often contradictory effects: rumors simultaneously breed fear and confusion, help forge intimacy, and provide certainty and coherence. Rather than subvert power relations or simply critique the powerful, I suggest that rumors and conspiracy theories provide the means through which tribal Pashtuns live and make their way in a social world in which they remain unequal, but coeval, participants.

You do not currently have access to this content.