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Recommended Reads: "A History of Pashtun Migration, 1775 - 2006" by Robert Nichols
In his short book of about 200 pages Robert Nichols, historian at Richard Stockton College, New Jersey, covers a few broad topics on the issue of Pashtun Migration from 1775 - 2006. His basic argument is that Pashtun influence through history is not only confined to their original home territories, rather, Pashtun migration has affected broader historical process of transformation of South Asian communities in the last two hundred years. In the author’s own words:
This study discusses aspects of the Pashtun diaspora within the provinces and princely states of colonial India and continues to follow this human circulation after decolonization within the independent nation - state of Pakistan. It then examines participation in globally integrated overseas labour markets, especially in the Middle East in the late twentieth century. Through the history, evidence suggests that Pashtun ethnic identities in diaspora were not of an unchanging, primordial character. In considering individual and community histories and representations it must be remembered that ‘ethnic is never a given factor in identity formation but is always socially and politically constructed.
Things that I found personally noteworthy about the book:
The author discusses the Rohilla people and their history in some detail in the beginning chapters of the book. After studying Afghanistan and Pashtun people’s lineage this semester, I hadn’t come across discussions of the Rohilla. So I appreciated learning about this aspect of Afghan and Pashtun identity which the author discussed in terms of the Mughal era and British colonial rule. Also, the maps in the beginning of the book are fantastic. But more importantly, ….
I have been interested for sometime in the immigration of South Asian communities over the last two hundred years. How diaspora influenced (and still does) political and ethnic identity within South Asia and broad, how it reshapes economic and social histories of Indian subcontinent and, most importantly, how it affects us today. The particular history that I have been interested in studying has been my own family (and particular tribe), and seeing a somewhat similar lens applied to Pashtuns have given me some idea of how I want to conduct my own research in the future (inshAllah).
Another thing that struck out at me and something that I would love to read up on in the future is the effect that immigration has at home for people left behind - especially the women. Families may gain higher status and so purdah is observed more strictly. I think that’s a very good and interesting point.
A review for this book has been published by Professor Ali Abbas in Pakistan Vision (10:1, 2009, pages 205 - 210). Professor Ali Abbas is the former Chairman of the Department of History at the University of Punjab, Lahore. The review can be read here.