cover image Under the Drones: 
Modern Lives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands

Under the Drones: Modern Lives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands

Edited by Shahzad Bashir and Robert D. Crews. Harvard Univ., $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-674-06561-1

Perhaps nowhere is the international community less prepared to engage in nation-building than in the lawless border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Edited by Stanford professors Bashir and Crews, the 13 essays in this volume (each by a specialist) seek to shed light on a society that, while stereotyped as monolithically savage and medieval, is actually bewilderingly complex as it adapts to modern force. Written for an academic audience, the pieces cover a grab-bag of topics, such as the identifiers of Baloch ethnicity, the political and religious significance of decorative paintings on trucks, and the effects of the drug trade in opium-producing areas. The title turns out to be a misnomer, as few of the articles directly concern themselves with the ramifications of the war itself. What unites the disparate contributions is an attention to “the way the agency of individuals and communities that inhabit the borderlands have been written out of the stories of their own lives,” how foreigners, whether aid workers, military occupiers, or international jihadists, have constructed a narrative of the region and its peoples that suits their own purposes but bears little relation to the reality on the ground. (May)