Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar
In collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, Pakistan Office
Defined by diverse spatial realities, the Pakistan-Afghanistan region has been subject to varied invasions, complex contestations and intense power plays by regional and international stakeholders. The physical interference of both local and major powers in the geographical landscape of the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands has, over the Centuries, made conflict a permanent feature of the region. Such intervention entailed ‘new’ forms of political spatiality to the region by (re-)defining and (re-)demarcating boundaries and in the process opening it to the concept of ‘modern statehood’ based on territoriality, sovereignty and population. The colonial practice of graded border management however, complicated the process of boundary definition and frontier management for the states of the region. This has further complicated the process of extension of centralized control over the ‘peripheral border spaces’, denying these areas many benefits of development, earning them the titles of the ‘unruly/ wild frontiers,’ and ‘ungoverned spaces.’ In the new millennium, especially in the post 9/11 period, the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland has entered the centre-stage of international attention. Dynamics in the borderland have assumed a more nuanced face with the emergence of new militant ideological movements. These religio-political movements have challenged peace and security in the border region with new forms of extremist and violent radicalism. The militant/military confrontation for control over the border regions and beyond has yet again made peace an elusive goal here. The War on Terror, foreign interference and local resistance have given birth to new forms of power configurations in the region, whose interests are at times conflicting and intersecting. This power play has substantially transformed the area’s socio-political and economic life. Old structures and institutions are fast transforming under the burden of conflict and state introduced reform processes. In this progression, civil society groups might emerge as the new face of resistance in the region.
However, rather than being helpless victims of contentious political games in the region, the inhabitants of Pakistan-Afghanistan region have dynamically influenced the regional/global through the local. The countless episodes of invasions and attempts at centralized control have opened the region to multiple layers of governance structures. The borderland has maintained a semblance of structured order and organized living through very indigenous and localized governance institutions. Informal systems have organized lives in the borderland for both Pakhtun and non-Pakhtun ethnicities alike. However, conflict and the non-state actors in the borderlands have transformed the tribal belt socially and politically. This dynamism of the socio-cultural setup in the region is an often-neglected subject for academic research. The unwritten code of conduct, Pakhtunwali, has conducted social life for the Pakhtun tribes in the border areas for centuries and the Jirgah (council) as an informal community body for dispute resolution has been instrumental in dispensing justice related functions. Such informal institutions of governance, however, constantly interact with and play upon the formal state institutions and its authorities. The dynamic interplay of formal and informal institutions is paradoxically promoting and at times impeding with achievements of state building processes in the region. Though the Pakistani state, due to changing perspective of the border tribes, has started to revise the complete structure, proposing some significant changes such as merging FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, yet, mainstreaming of FATA and integrating it in the state is the most challenging task.
This spatial reality in the borderlands is further complicated by a strong gender divide both in the private spaces of homes and family relationships, but also the public spaces, which are considered to be too ‘public’ and ‘privileged’ for women. Since the public spaces by virtue of being ‘male dominated’ reinforce male control over politics, religion and economy, issues of dominance and gender divide are further aggravated. These public spaces, which are more readily open to and incorporate predominantly male voices are, however, used by the inhabitants of the region to convey their opinions, grievances and political dissent; social media spaces being inclusive of it.
In order to gain a more holistic view of the dynamics of change in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar and the Hanns Seidel Foundation, Islamabad have been jointly organizing a series of International Conferences since 2011. The Department and HSF invite proposals for its 6th International Conference to be held in Bara Gali from 20-22 August, 2017.
The 2017 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?
- In what manner are gender relations being transformed in the wake of socio-cultural and political transformation in the region?
- How are local economies changing under neo-liberal influences and conflict dynamics? • How are alternative religious discourses challenging the dominant discourses in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region?
- What modes of societal resistance are emerging against extremist voices/actions?
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
- Youth and Radicalization
- Economic Transformation and Development
- Globalization, Conflict and Local Economies
- Migration, Diaspora, Refugees, and Internally Displaced Persons
- Borders and Transnational mobility
- Periphery within a Periphery? Non-Pakhtun Ethnicities on the Border
- Transforming Identities
- Art, Sports, and Politics of Aesthetics
- Sub-national Governments and Governance
- Governance Reforms in FATA: Mainstreaming and the Challenges
- Changing Electoral/ Political trends
- Theoretical Engagement of the Borderland
- CPEC-Economic Dividends/ Politics of CPEC
We request abstracts of no more than 500 words from academics and practitioners on either of the topics listed above, along with a short biography, to be submitted to the conference organizing committee before April 30, 2017. Abstracts should include a title, research questions, information about potential methodological and theoretical frameworks, and a summary of the main arguments. After reviewing by the academic committee, the selected paper presenters will be contacted on May 10. The last date for the submission of completed papers is June 30, 2017.
Limited funding will be available for travel expenses of accepted paper presenters. The organizers will provide local accommodation, food, and local transport. We intend to print the conference proceedings and may compile selected papers into an edited book, to be published later by a reputable publishing house.
The Conference will take place at the Bara Gali Summer Campus of the University of Peshawar, 95 kilometres from Islamabad (close to Nathia Gali). For any further details or abstract submission please contact: email@example.com
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