ambiguous infrastructures of border fluxes

mentor: Dr Nishat Awan, TU Delft


>read the full paper here
>part of the master thesis, see complete project here


Balochistan is the largest and the most precarious province of Pakistan.
Along with cross-border Iranian Balochistan-Sistan province, it is the homeland of the Balochi people, whose territory has been divided by the national frontier. Through occasional insurgency acts, Balochi strive for regaining their independency from Islamabad, that has been exploiting the province in economical, material and social senses. The violence of the state, manifesting itself as negligence, induced Balochs to engage in ‘illicit’ – though commonly acknowledged and tolerated by the state - practices.
Informal trade, border smuggling and human trafficking - have become one of the few ways to survive in the economic misery of this desertic land. Effectively, the intertwinement of inner local urgencies with outer (geo)political conditions determined a very particular local means of how to get by.

This research aims to investigate phenomenon of smuggling as well as various kinds of border infrastructures that has been perpetuating fluxes across the Iran - Pakistani national border. The paper will begin with recognizing the socio-economical context in which the Balochistan province is situated. The proper research will start by examining the physicality of infrastructure body understood by its material means. On the other hand, less tangible, fluid kind of 'infrastructures’ will be examined afterwards – the ones understood as abstract yet functioning systems of interests, dependencies, exceptions and special relationships that perpetuate around local actors: smugglers, animals, state(s) agents, various (often independent) law enforcement groups. Eventually, after effectuating this ‘verbal mapping’, the overall condition of border fluxes, with special attention to its infrastructure(s), will be conceptualized in the theoretical framework, referencing, inter alia, to the notions of agencement or infrastructure of people.

The research therefore positions itself in a multi-disciplinary scope, deriving not only from spatial domains such as architecture or urbanism but also, even more importantly, from various social sciences such as ethnography, sociology, anthropology and politics. Hence, the sources of the paper comprise trans-disciplinary works, often operating on the edge of the above disciplines as well as include diverse media types such as books, official reports, online articles, Instagram posts or YouTube videos.

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