Matthias Weinreich: „We are here to stay“: Pashtun migrants in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Berlin 2009. 120 S.

Mobility in the mountains and exchange with the forelands have been driving forces for the spread of languages. The Hindukush and Karakoram ranges are no exception to this rule. In fact, they have been regarded over long periods of time as the sources of places of origin for a number of vernaculars and linguistic variegation.

Matthias Weinreich addresses in his study a long neglected and under-studied phenomenon. He sheds light on the language environment of migrants who moved from the South into the bazaar towns and rural settlements of Northern Pakistan. Matthias Weinreich’s interest has been devoted to minority and endangered languages in their respective settings. He previously published on the rarely spoken and threatened language of Domaaki. In this slim volume he offers insights into the perceptions and living conditions of Pashto speakers. Infrastructure development of recent decades, epitomized in the construction of the Karakoram Highway and the opening of the Pakistan-China border for trade and exchange, has stimulated the inflow of enterprising individuals and their families.
Dynamic and affluent businessmen, people on the search for menial jobs and wage labour, clerks, cobblers, barbers and cooks offering their professional services, ambulant traders in cloth, electric devices and household goods, collectors of waste paper, plastic garbage and tins, all belong somehow to the Pathan or Pashtun community, which is composed of a number of individuals. Some follow the tracks of relatives, who often originate from a wide-spread area of Pashtun settlements, others search for new openings. The challenge for the linguist is tremendous if the aim is to grasp such a diverse group of people who are supposed to speak the same language. Matthias Weinreich faces the challenge and composes a readable volume around the socio-linguistic setting of Northern Pakistan in which precision in providing historical evidence about socio-economic transformations sometimes falls short, but it is only the framework in which the migrants’ stories are embedded. The main body of the narrative is a valuable one and has a clear focus on the personal views and perceptions. We hear the voices of the Pashtun migrants, relating their experiences, their backgrounds and their relationships in a changing socio-economic setting of the bazaars and valleys. Individuals tell their biographies emphasizing why they are here and how they reached this point. A mosaic picture is presented in which the living conditions and communication patterns become transparent and vivid.
The use of mother tongue, the mutual challenge of dialects and the adaptation of dominant idioms prevalent in the neighbourhood are articulated and commented pon. Thus, the findings contribute to a better understanding of the everyday life of migrants, their aspirations and experiences and their dynamic approach to new avenues and enterprises.
Hermann Kreutzmann

 

Quelle: Erdkunde, 63. Jahrgang, 2009, Heft 3, S. 389

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