Language, dislocation, and interpretation: Afghan migrants in England
Nichola Khan (University of Brighton)
Paper short abstract:
Through conjunctions of silence, migration and mobility, the paper follows Afghan migrants' travels in England. It queries contradictory and idiosyncratic forms of migrant life, its representation in colonial and hegemonic discourse, and the sense of dislocation, duality, and effacement produced.
Paper long abstract:
The paper reflects on what it is to be Afghan, Pashtun, Muslim and a migrant in the contemporary world. Through conjunctions of silence, migration and mobility, it draws on research with Afghan migrants in England, following their inexorable movement from refugee sons, to becoming remitting migrants, citizens, and household heads themselves. These temporal shifts are represented in terms of the values of freedom and autonomy, but also fractured by forms of ongoing violence which, repressed in everyday social and political life, return as various configurations of silence. First, disrupting the colonial ethnographer's gaze on Afghanistan, the paper returns to questions about the gap between contradictory and idiosyncratic forms of migrant life, its representation in hegemonic and academic discourse, and the sense of dislocation, duality and effacement this produces in migrant' lives. Next, it explores deep personal predicaments facing those who cease to function, or in mobility terms to 'move'. These reveal attempts to re-pace, stop, and reshape the long-term burdens of migrant labour that play out in different, complex ways in everyday life centered on movement and mobility. Third, it questions the human relationships that comprise fieldwork, and the limits of ethnography to assist at or represent suffering. Following migrants' travels through life, it reflects on ways personal stories, dream-sharing, and rememberings intimate ways anthropological knowledge is formed eclectically out of what people agree upon, interpretations of exchanges that cannot be voiced, and desires and imaginings by which they make sense of what is strange or difficult to bear.
Silences of/and mobility: towards an anthropology of the unspoken and unspeakable