The South Asian Studies Council presents:
Alessandro Monsutti, Graduate Institute, Geneva: “Homo Itinerans: An Essay Towards a Global Ethnography of Afghanistan.”
Afghan society has been marked in a lasting way by war and forced migration, but also by the presence of a myriad of international and nongovernmental organizations, as well as armed forces from many countries around the globe. Homo itinerans is thus declined in several ways: some flee violence; others go from one country to another, following humanitarian crises and the job opportunities they create.
The movement of refugees going to Pakistan or Iran, to Europe, Australia or North America is paralleled by the movement of experts who practice their skills in Afghanistan after having been in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Palestine or East Timor. The latter circulate from North to South and promote social and political norms that are supposed to be universal; the former undertake a journey in the opposite direction from South to North and unmask by their very mobility the unequal distribution of resources, be it economic wellbeing or access to safe living conditions.
Through ethnographic vignettes collected among Afghan mountain villagers or at a party among expatriates in Kabul, during a training program at a luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi or during a visit of the jungle of Calais, this paper will adopt mobility as a privileged entry point to tell the “small stories” of people met during more than two decades of ethnographic itinerance, beyond the “big story” of the reconstruction of the state and the geostrategic significance of the Afghan conflict.