A monumental account of one migrant community’s everyday lives, struggles, and aspirations
Forty years of continuous war and conflict have made Afghans the largest refugee group in the world. In this first full-scale ethnography of Afghan migrants in England, Nichola Khan examines the imprint of violence, displacement, kinship obligations, and mobility on the lives and work of Pashtun journeyman taxi drivers in Britain. Khan’s analysis is centered in the county of Sussex, site of Brighton’s orientalist Royal Pavilion and the former home of colonial propagandist Rudyard Kipling. Her nearly two decades of relationships and fieldwork have given Khan a deep understanding of the everyday lives of Afghan migrants, who face unrelenting pressures to remit money to their struggling relatives in Pakistan and Afghanistan, adhere to traditional values, and resettle the wives and children they have left behind.
This kaleidoscopic narrative is enriched by the migrants’ own stories and dreams, which take on extra significance among sleep-deprived taxi drivers. Khan chronicles the way these men rely on Pashto poems and aphorisms to make sense of what is strange or difficult to bear. She also attests to the pleasures of local family and friends who are less demanding than kin back home—sharing connection and moments of joy in dance, excursions, picnics, and humorous banter. Khan views these men’s lives through the lenses of movement—the arrival of friends and family, return visits to Pakistan, driving customers, even the journey to remit money overseas—and immobility, describing the migrants who experience “stuckness” caused by unresponsive bureaucracies, chronic insecurity, or struggles with depression and other mental health conditions.
Arc of the Journeyman is a deeply humane portrayal that expands and complicates current perceptions of Afghan migrants, offering a finely analyzed description of their lives and communities as a moving, contingent, and fully contemporary force.