D2 "Resource exploration, migration and developmental dynamics along the North-South corridor in the Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan border region"

Dr. Shahnaz R. Nadjmabadi

Keywords: Eastern provinces of Iran, Afghanistan, development, entrepreneur, migration, transborder relations, regional involvement, Anthropology

The recent emergence of the North-South corridor in eastern Iran along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border represents a new “traffic light” position in Crossroads Asia. It is along this line that a novel road for the exchange of goods between South Asia, the Persian Gulf and the Central Asian countries has been established. Simultaneously the extraction and exploitation of new resources in Iran and their distribution to the neighboring countries demand infrastructure that induces mobility, which, in turn, prompt populations to orient themselves regionally and socially in new ways. (Barth 1967, Steyaert 2006)

The work package presented here looks at the effects of infrastructural development and the processes of social change that condition trans-border mobility. The agents of change to be considered in this region are entrepreneurs, innovators and brokers, who through their strategies and interactions initiate transformation processes and provoke developmental dynamics. Among these, an outstanding role is played by the migrants returning from the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf who are willing to contribute their know-how and skills acquired abroad and engage in transnational joint ventures. They introduce different symbolic systems, knowledge and lifestyles into local contexts and thus initiate processes of change and transformation. (Bicker et al 2004, Nanjunda 2008, Pottier et al 2003).

The work package shall focus on the various strategic actions of these social actors. The issues to be examined are: which specific knowledge and creative skills do the migrants, the traders, the entrepreneurs and the brokers, settling in the border region, invest in to develop trans-border networks, use available resources and thus engage in various kinds of innovative projects. Which measures do they adopt to take advantage of all-embracing regional development? To what extent are they involved in the design and delivery of development programs and do they succeed in directing and adjusting the process of development to their own visions and needs? 

Data collection will be carried out through anthropological field research in the eastern provinces of Iran in Khorassan and Chabahar, the western part of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The aim is to work out the structure and pattern of the mobility system and its organizational forms related to the “traffic light” inside Crossroad Asia. The theoretical conceptualization of the project and the applied methodology involve the physical as well as the cognitive level of mobility. That is to say, in addition to the lived and experienced process of transregional movement it is also necessary to cover the “imagined” and “conceived” level of mobility (Moore 2006, Wilson & Dissanayake 1996; Rappaport & Dawsen 1998) Hence, to access the experiential level of the actors, besides the empirical data collection that is the standard method in social sciences methodology, the focus will also be on the recording of the individual actors’ personal narratives.

This working package builds mainly upon the past experiences of the person in charge of the project, studying the flows (trade and migration) between the Arab and Iranian populations of the Persian Gulf.

As for the underlying theoretical anthropological concepts related to development, contemporary theories will offer the theoretical framework in which the idea is rejected that development has to be considered as a homogeneous process. Instead they suggest looking at it as an arena of ideas where numerous stakeholders and interest groups pursue multiple visions and where the sense, the aim and the direction of development may be contested and negotiated time and again. (Escobar 2008, Benjamin 2000,Sardan, 2005)


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