Arc of the Journeyman

Afghan Migrants in England

2020
Author:

Nichola Khan

Arc of the Journeyman

A monumental account of one migrant community’s everyday lives, struggles, and aspirations

Forty years of continuous war and conflict have made Afghans the largest refugee group in the world. In this first full-scale ethnography of Afghan migrants in England, Nichola Khan examines the imprint of violence, displacement, kinship obligations, and mobility on the lives and work of Pashtun journeyman taxi drivers in Britain.

A monumental achievement—of impressive, wide-ranging scholarship and original thinking, finely analyzed and sensitively portrayed. We have here the first full-length anthropological study of Afghan refugees, making this a vital and much-needed contribution. Through her richly historicized analysis of migrant life histories, fantasies, and even dreams, Nichola Khan collapses the past and the present and explodes received cartographies of Anglo–Afghan relations.

Kaveri Qureshi, University of Edinburgh

Forty years of continuous war and conflict have made Afghans the largest refugee group in the world. In this first full-scale ethnography of Afghan migrants in England, Nichola Khan examines the imprint of violence, displacement, kinship obligations, and mobility on the lives and work of Pashtun journeyman taxi drivers in Britain. Khan’s analysis is centered in the county of Sussex, site of Brighton’s orientalist Royal Pavilion and the former home of colonial propagandist Rudyard Kipling. Her nearly two decades of relationships and fieldwork have given Khan a deep understanding of the everyday lives of Afghan migrants, who face unrelenting pressures to remit money to their struggling relatives in Pakistan and Afghanistan, adhere to traditional values, and resettle the wives and children they have left behind.

This kaleidoscopic narrative is enriched by the migrants’ own stories and dreams, which take on extra significance among sleep-deprived taxi drivers. Khan chronicles the way these men rely on Pashto poems and aphorisms to make sense of what is strange or difficult to bear. She also attests to the pleasures of local family and friends who are less demanding than kin back home—sharing connection and moments of joy in dance, excursions, picnics, and humorous banter. Khan views these men’s lives through the lenses of movement—the arrival of friends and family, return visits to Pakistan, driving customers, even the journey to remit money overseas—and immobility, describing the migrants who experience “stuckness” caused by unresponsive bureaucracies, chronic insecurity, or struggles with depression and other mental health conditions.

Arc of the Journeyman is a deeply humane portrayal that expands and complicates current perceptions of Afghan migrants, offering a finely analyzed description of their lives and communities as a moving, contingent, and fully contemporary force.
Arc of the Journeyman

Nichola Khan is a reader in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Brighton. She is author of Mohajir Militancy in Pakistan and Mental Disorder: Anthropological Insights, and editor of Cityscapes of Violence in Karachi: Publics and Counterpublics.

Arc of the Journeyman

A monumental achievement—of impressive, wide-ranging scholarship and original thinking, finely analyzed and sensitively portrayed. We have here the first full-length anthropological study of Afghan refugees, making this a vital and much-needed contribution. Through her richly historicized analysis of migrant life histories, fantasies, and even dreams, Nichola Khan collapses the past and the present and explodes received cartographies of Anglo–Afghan relations.

Kaveri Qureshi, University of Edinburgh

This is a moving book. It moves between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and England. It moves with Pashtun taxi drivers connecting everyday mobilities to the larger scales of migration. It moves the reader through a skillful poesis of fragments. Based on years of fieldwork and attentive to the power of stories, Arc of the Journeyman realizes the dreams of a routed anthropology and a storied account of mobilities. A must-read for anyone interested in the lives of Afghan refugees, the uses of mobility theory, or the power of storytelling in an academic context.

Tim Cresswell, author of Maxwell Street: Writing and Thinking Place

Arc of the Journeyman

Contents

Prelude: From the Red River to England’s Shores

Introduction: Life as a Moving Form

1. Lifelines: Transnational Labor Mobility on the Road

2. The Taste of Freedom and Return

3. Immobility Dreams: The Man Who Would Be King

4. Food, Water, and Wherewithal in the Time of Crossings

5. Barth in Sussex: Community, Feasting, and Immobility Revisited

Endlines: An Aporia of Freedom and Suffering

Notes

Bibliography

Index