Accepted paper:

Brokers of conflict: Afghan and Iraqi military interpreters and other Locally Employed Civilians

Authors:

Sara de Jong (University of York)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I argue that the position of contemporary Iraqi and Afghan military interpreters and other Locally Engaged Civilians (LEC) can be usefully interpreted against the backdrop of colonial histories of brokerage from which certain structural patterns can be derived.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I will present my research into the claims to rights and protection by Afghan and Iraqi military interpreters and other Locally Employed Civilians (LECs) based on 50 semi-structured interviews with LEC and their advocates, as well as media and policy document analysis. Considered traitors by some people from their own communities, they turned to the Western states that employed them for protection and rights. I will argue that their powerful yet precarious position can be understood in the context of a long history of colonial and modern brokerage. Global processes such as conquest, war, international development and migration create interfaces between different communities, and produce a demand for brokers who can mediate across linguistic, cultural, social and political boundaries and negotiate the divergent interests of unequally situated groups. While brokers have to be understood within their own context and time, I suggest that it is possible to identify some structural patterns which can shed light on the position of contemporary Iraqi and Afghan LEC. These structural patterns help to understand the emerging demand for brokers and the opportunities for social mobility created by military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the blurred lines between translation and mediation, and finally, the mutual suspicion about (dis)loyalties. As with many historical brokers who were mistrusted as traitors, it is ultimately the brokers themselves, in this case Afghan and Iraqi LEC, who feel betrayed and discarded.

panel C6
Brokering development [paper and experimental]