Title

Redefining the “border between two worlds”: Waterscapes of division, devotion, and development along the Panj River in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan

Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Geography

Advisor(s)

Natalie Koch

Keywords

Borders, Pamir Mountains, Political Geography, Tajikistan, Water Management, Waterscape

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

Based on research conducted from May-August, 2017 in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan, I argue that local communities are redefining the Panj River border with Afghanistan. Drawing from critical border studies in political geography, this paper argues that border-making processes and practices along the Panj River border can be understood as socioecological through three particular “waterscapes”: (1) divison; (2) devotion; and (3) development. Whereas in the past, the Panj River border stood as a division “between two worlds,” data collected through interviews and participant observation indicates that this legacy of division is being contested by water users in Tajikistan in order to establish cross-border collaboration on climate change-related water issues with neighboring communities in Afghanistan. I contend that this collaboration currently draws on pre-modern and pre-Soviet conceptions of territory in the region, which highlight a shared geography and history of Ismaili-Islamic devotion. I also contend that while water users have made great inroads in building cross-border collaboration with communities in Afghanistan, their efforts are nonetheless limited by broader political economic networks of international aid and development. International development in the region operates through cycles of available funding with which local water user associations are able to carry out aspirations and plans toward a less divided and more secure environmental future. Without funding, there is still much confusion as to how this future along the Panj River border will be realized.

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