To the centre of any empire, the frontier is a site of anxiety, of potential harm, of barbarians who could be marching towards the gate. The imperial imaginations of the medieval Arab dynasties, the colonial British, and now the United States have been dominated by this anxiety. We have to plant our historiographical feet in the frontier space of present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and north India to see the concerns which emerge from within a regional imagination, in a regionally specific conversation and in regional stories. Situating ourselves in the frontier reveals varied perspectives that are invisible to the imperial eye. To pay attention to the localised production of history and memory is to decontextualise the only context that appears relevant – the imperial one. This shift in perspective reveals that the oft-designated “frontier” has a centrality all of its own.
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