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Schedule | 8th Annual Pakistan Conference: Movement, Migration, and Borders

9:30-9:35 - Welcome Remarks

Matthew HullUniversity of Michigan

9:35-9:45 - Conference Opening Remarks

Brittany PullerUniversity of Michigan

9:45-11:00 - Borders and Bodies

Chair: Matthew Hull, University of Michigan

Sanaa AlimiaZentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin
Performing the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border through Afghan Refugee ID Cards
This paper details how the border is not simply located at the territorial frontier but is in process and is "performed" into being through documents, the control over the mobility of citizen and non-citizen populations, and by enacting everyday forms of social exclusion. After the independence and partition of British Indiain 1947 Pakistan the Pakistan-India border was performed in to effect through a regime of documentation and control over population mobility (Zamindar 2007). In 1971 after the secession of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), the introduction of the national identity card and a control over population mobility of “new” and “old” Pakistanis were acts that remade the new borders of Pakistan. This paper unpacks how, since the 2000s, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is being performed in to being. Famously, during the Soviet-Afghan War, it was politically expedient for the security-dominated Pakistani state to host a large Afghan refugee population and make use of the colonially inherited fluid Afghanistan-Pakistan border. However, in the “Global War on Terror” (GWOT) this no longer applies. As political circumstances change, this paper explores how ID cards for Afghan refugees are a tool of surveillance that facilitates refuge and more critically a route to the legal/ documentary, social, and physical exclusion of the non-citizen refugee. The Afghan ID card does not simply “embrace” (Torpey 2000) individuals into the state and civic and political life, which has tended to be the argument put forward by scholarship on modern surveillance that is predominantly centered, first, on the Western liberal/ democratic state and, second, on the citizen. Instead, the ID card and its database identify and register Afghans in order to control their mobility with the intent of physically excluding them from the country via refugee repatriation and deportation programs. In addition, in everyday life the card itself is a form of “media” and a “material artifact” (Tawil-Souri 2011) that communicates information to the everyday state that enables more accurate discrimination and profiling of Afghans. In this paper, then, the border exists through acts that are repeated on a daily basis, some of which create sentiments of exclusion (harassment and violence) and others that change facts on the ground (population transfers).

Ali Nobil AhmadZentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin
Provincializing Europe's Migration Crisis: Human Smuggling from Pakistani Punjab
This paper examines questions of agency and experience in human smuggling from Pakistani Punjab to Europe through engaging with theories of migration and environmental history. Beginning with a wide-ranging overview of research conducted with migrants and smugglers since the early 2000s, the paper provides a brief sketch of changing structures, networks and processes involved in travel and brokerage. It does so with a view to provincializing the so-called migration “crisis” of 2015. The paper concludes with some reflections on individual experience, which is analyzed within the longue dureé of Mediterranean history.

11:00-11:15 - Coffee Break

11:15-1:00 - Diasporas and Home

Chair: Farina Mir, University of Michigan

Samia KhatunUniversity of Liberal Arts Bangladesh
Intimate Encounters Along Australian Camel Tracks: Knowledge-Power Across the Indian Ocean
The Australian nation-state has long operated as an Anglo outpost in the Indian Ocean world. Today, whilst imaging the Indian Ocean realm as an imperial terrain peopled with racialized “others” who must be kept out, Australian governments systematically continue to imagine Aboriginal geographies as “blank spaces” to be filled in with the right type of citizens. Beholden to these powerful “imagined geographies,” histories of South Asian migrants are too-often written as dramas about “pioneers” or “aliens” that unfold on the “blank spaces” underpinning settler colonial regimes. However, if we look at Aboriginal language archives about South Asians, we see alternative epistemic grounds on which we can situate historical storytelling about migrants. This paper follows two South Asian camel drivers into Australian deserts, where they encountered two Aboriginal sisters waiting for a train in c.1897. Reading an Arabunna-language story that continues to circulate about the encounter, this paper seeks to connect debates about knowledge-power in Aboriginal history and South Asian historiography.

Attiya AhmadThe George Washington University
Assumptions of Exceptionalism and Temporariness: South Asian Domestic Workers in the Gulf
This paper examines the assemblage of processes, policies and systems of governance that designates and disciplines South Asian migrant domestic workers into a ‘temporary population’ in Kuwait. This assemblage positions domestic workers as dual agents of reproduction: tasked with the everyday social reproduction of Kuwaiti families, and through their remittances, the everyday provisioning of the households and communities they have migrated from. This paper underscores how domestic workers’ ‘temporariness’ is produced amidst—and belied by—past and present transnational connections that knit together the Gulf region and South Asia. It also examines the gendered juridico-political aporias that characterize the transnational domestic work sector, aporias which place domestic workers into precarious juridico-political positions that further reinscribe their “temporariness” in the Gulf.  In the concluding discussion, this paper critically examines several assumptions of exceptionalism related to the status of South Asian domestic workers in the Gulf: how domestic workers' situations in the Gulf differ from other migration destination sites, how South Asian domestic workers' status differs from other domestic workers, and how domestic workers' gendered status differs from other South Asian migrants in the region.

Ammara Maqsood, University of Manchester
Migration and the Making of the Middle-Class in Urban Pakistan
This article reflects on the ways in which migration out of Pakistan has shaped and informed the middle-class population at home. There is a significant body of literature on the Pakistani diaspora abroad, particularly in Britain and Europe more broadly, and how they maintain connections with “home” through kinship and marriage networks, as well as remittances to Pakistan. However, this literature is largely from the perspective of migrant communities and how they situate themselves. By comparison, little is known of how these migratory connections have shaped middle-class family life and subjectivities within Pakistan. Drawing upon fieldwork conducted in Lahore between 2009-2011, and in Lahore and Karachi in 2016-2017, this paper focuses upon two ways in which different waves of migration have shaped middle class life. First, it unravels how migration of semi-skilled and skilled migrants to the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, along with their subsequent return-migration and movement back and forth, introduced new ideas on religious learning in middle-class and professional circles. Second, it examines how more recent migratory trends around educated young men – specifically those finding professional work or running small businesses in the Gulf, Malaysia and China – shape domestic life and joint family structures in Lahore and Karachi. Through these examples, Dr. Maqsood suggests that we need to rethink the ways in which migration “abroad” gets implicated in everyday life at “home” in urban Pakistan.

1:00-2:00 Lunch

2:00-4:15 - Zinda Bhaag Film Screening

What makes a man step into a cargo container that is going to be sealed for days? Why does he step into a flimsy overloaded boat to face a stormy sea? Or dart across international borders dodging bullets? What are the compulsions faced by men in Pakistan, which make them take extreme risks to chase a mirage of a secure future in alien lands? Set against the backdrop of the world of illegal immigration, Zinda Bhaag is a film about three young men trying to escape the reality of their everyday lives ... and succeeding in ways they had least expected. In a nondescript neighbourhood of Lahore, three friends are desperate to get on to the fast track to success. Khaldi, Taambi and Chitta, all in their early twenties, believe that the only way out ... is to the West. The journey that unfolds through the story of this film gives us a peep into what constitutes the everyday in the lives of many young men and women in Pakistan - a sense of entitlement that cannot be fulfilled, desperation to somehow prove themselves in the face of all legitimate doors being locked and an ennui from which they feel there is no getaway.

4:15-4:45 - Zinda Bhaag - Q&A with filmmaker Farjad Nabi

Chair: Aswin Punathambekar, University of Michigan

4:45-5:00 - Coffee Break

5:00-5:30 - Discussant, Pnina WerbnerKeele University, UK

5:30-6:30 - Open Discussion