The Dynamics of Change in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Region: Politics on Borderland

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Call for Papers
June 15, 2016
Subject Fields: 
Area Studies, Political Science, South Asian History / Studies

Call for Papers

Fifth Bara Gali Conference

The Dynamics of Change in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Region: Politics on Borderland

August 29-31, 2016

Department of Political Science,

University of Peshawar

In collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation,

Pakistan Office

Over the past couple of decades the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland has gained increased level of international attention. Much of this attention, in both policy and scholarship, was drawn to the borderland’s geo-strategic significance and how it proved to be a defining part of the so-called Great Wars. This led to a unique albeit at times narrow understanding of the borderland often resulting in either diminutive or exaggerated narratives. Over the course of four conferences on the “Dynamics of Change in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Borderland” - jointly organized by the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar, and Hanns Seidel Foundation in 2011,2013,2014, and 2015 - those hitherto dominant narratives, discourses and theories were analysed and complemented by additional approaches, thereby critically addressing the challenge of making the borderland issue truly understandable.

Straddled across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the Pukhtun region is characterized by pervasive conflict, political instability, international intervention, economic under-development, and cultural variation. Historically, conflict as a central characteristic has taken many manifestations. Such conflicts have deeply affected socio-cultural, political and economic lives of the people and the very social tissue. Problems of governance, cultural integration, socio-economic development and religious militancy have generated conflict and challenged the state’s authority.

This Fifth Bara Gali Conference invites papers that take up the common theme of “politics on border” along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in different ways. The conference aims to make a series of interdisciplinary forays in making the Pakistan-Afghanistan border more understandable. For doing so, we look forward to engage a number of political concepts and predicates—the tribe and the state, security and phenomenology, nomos and human rights, subjectivity and discourse, and religiosity and egalitarianism.  The methodological scope of invited papers is not limited to descriptive and illustrative analysis, but also to make advances in critical and conceptual fields.

As the War on Terror enters a new phase, we argue that it is time to revisit the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland to reflect on the changing geostrategic reality, state discourses, and border-making practices. We need to debate the ethical and normative aspects of the border control regimes. And in this debate we need to focus on the practices of commuting, crossing, and transgressing the physical, cultural, and normative border. Moreover, we need to focus on the phenomenology of encountering the border, and how in that encounter the border is made and/or unmade.

Moreover, we seek to debate the complexity of relationship between border and territory. While this complexity is generally noticeable in all kinds of borders, in the case of Pakistan-Afghanistan border it is distinct due to peculiar topology of its mountainous terrain. Although we study the complexity of border-territory relationship, we also seek to go beyond our focus on the territorial aspect of border, especially to avoid the pitfall of what Yosef Lapid calls a “territorial epistemology”. Rather we aim to think of alternative epistemologies. For instance, we wish to re-engage the concept of “social boundary” of Fredrik Barth in new ways. We would also like to think of border—a periphery—as a way of life and ontology of embodied (body-border) experience. We want to ask how border conditions the tribal ways of living in the face of state practices/authority? And how this border culture—or rather a culture on border—comes to build and un-build its political relationship with the state.

Against this backdrop, the theme of the 2016 Annual Conference explores the following major questions:

  • Given the hitherto marginality of the local voices and traditions, what are the ways and sources of knowledge that can help to make their lives more understandable, meaningful, and inclusive?
  • What makes Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland a socio-politically complex borderland? In what ways does the recent scholarship on borderlands contribute to problematizing as well as understanding the various dynamics of Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland?
  • What are the political and economic challenges to the state building in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially in the backdrop of recent developments in the region? 
  • How do the key global challenges of our time affect the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland and vice versa?

A further division of the areas of interest is following:

  • War, Genre, and Critique
  • Religion, Difference, and Violence
  • Law, Human Rights and Gender Rights
  • Democratic Governance, Public Space, and Resistance
  • Economic Transformation and Development?
  • Migration, Refugees, and Internally Displaced Persons
  • Borders and Transnational mobility
  • Transforming Identities
  • Art, Sports, and Politics of Aesthetics


We request abstracts of not more than 300 words along with a short c.v. The deadline is May 30, 2016. The committee will announce decisions by June 15, 2016. Detailed papers must be turned in to the coordinator or secretary at least 10 days before the conference starts. A limited number of travel grants are also available. All presenters and participants will be provided free local transport, accommodation and meals. For more information feel free to contact us.

Contact Info: 

Muhammad Zubair

Conference Coordinator

Department of Political Science,

University of Peshawar

Contact Email: