Edited by Elizabeth Mavroudi, Ben Page and Anastasia Christou
Chapter 5: Border rhythms
At first glance borders and boundaries seem to be unambiguously spatial objects. Paolo Novak, however, considers three decades of assistance for Afghan refugees in Pakistan through a temporal lens, drawing attention to the changing rate of labour and refugee flows, the differentiated temporal experience of boundary-crossing and the coming into being of boundary lines themselves. His key concept is rhythm. The chapter not only assesses the temporal aspects of the Durand Line (the linear marker separating Afghanistan and Pakistan), but also the River Indus, which at this point forms the boundary between Islamabad and Peshawar provinces within Pakistan. Novak uses Lefebvre’s idea of rhythmanalysis to provide a critical interpretation of three familiar concepts: time–space compression, border biographies and the refugee cycle regularly used in border studies. In each case this novel reading of a familiar idea reveals a diverse set of experiences of time and space. For example, while border biographies can vividly identify key moments in the life of a border, these temporal breaks need to be set against various other temporalities (of the world-system, of regional trade, of national interventions) to be understood. The concept of rhythm developed here usefully depicts the dynamic and hierarchical nature of an uneven social field by drawing attention to the multiplicity of different tempos that can be heard simultaneously – beats that are distinct but related and which, together, produce the vast unity that we seek to disentangle. Keywords: rhythm, time–space compression, border biographies, refugee cycles, Afghanistan, Pakistan
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