Development institutions and religious networks in the Pamirian borderlands
In this chapter, I discuss the emergence of connections between and beyond the Pamirian borderlands at the geographical meeting point of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. I do so by focusing on connections that have resulted from the concurrence of development institutions and religious networks – here in particular the work of Ismaili Muslim institutions – and I make a case for the study of such connections as embedded in historical genealogies. In this regard, I first provide a brief overview of early efforts to establish Ismaili development in northern Pakistan before subsequently exploring an Ismaili political theology of development as shaped by the entanglement of British colonial rule in India, 20th-century developmental discourse, and the continuous reinterpretation of Islamic teachings. In the final section, I look at how Ismaili development encounters in eastern Tajikistan navigate between expectations of socialist statecraft and the demands of a liberal order. Against this backdrop, I argue that studying the convergence of development institutions and religious networks across historical frontiers and nation state boundaries provides conceptual insights on two planes: first, the cases of northern Pakistan and eastern Tajikistan highlight that “borderland status” is not only dependent on the geographical location at the fringes of an empire or the nation state, but might also be reproduced within global networks. Second, the intricate interlinkage between Ismaili religious reform and development work challenges a linear take on the genealogy of modern humanitarian aspirations.