Conf/Abstracts - First Conference on Afghan Studies, Scholarly Association for International Studies of Afghanistan (CESAI), 26-28 June 2019, Yerevan, Armenia

Russian - Armenian University

Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian-Armenian University

Event Date:

June 26, 2019 - June 28, 2019

Opportunity Cover Image - Conf/Abstracts - First Conference on Afghan Studies, Scholarly Association for International Studies of Afghanistan (CESAI), 26-28 June 2019, Yerevan, Armenia


Islamic Movements in the Pashtun Tribal


The Case of the Rawshaniyya and Beyond.

Sergei Andreyev

Independent Scholar, St Petersburg

The Rawshani movement is the first relatively well-recorded sample  of  the  complex  interaction  between  Islamic  and Pashtun  tribal  polities  where  certain  developmental  stages progressing  from   an  individual  affiliation  to  an  Islamic coalition  resulting  in  an  incipient  state  formation  may  be identified with an aim of establishing a more general pattern of Islamic movements’ positions and activities vis-à-vis tribal agendas. Interrelations between Pashtun tribes affiliated with Islamic   movements   and   the   state   evolves   from   initial antagonism into co-optation and legitimization of the tribal agenda  by  means  of  Islam.  This  results  in  the  shift  of  the balance  of  power  in  favour  of  religious  leaders,  which alienates the tribes who either desert Islamic movements or even  turn  against  them.  After  an  initial  setback  the  state hijacks either an Islamic or tribal agenda and plays a pivotal role in securing a divorce between Islamists and the tribes.

This pattern is first considered in the Rawshani context and its applicability to the later interaction between Pashtun tribes and Islamic movements is also discussed.

Early Documented Censuses in Pashtun Tribes

Mikhail Pelevin

St Petersburg State University

Demographic   statistics   on   Pashtun   tribes   began   to   be regularly  published  in  the  times  of  the  First  Anglo-Afghan War  by  the  British  military  (e.g.  Reports  and  Papers  by A. Burnes  et  al.,  1839);  towards  the  end  of  the  nineteenth century  statistical  data  of  that  kind  became  an  essential component    in    the    reports    of    the    British    colonial administration  of  the  North-West  Frontier  of  India  (cf. Gazetteer  of  the  Peshawar  district,  1897–98).  Less  known are few survived records of local  tribal censuses conducted by  Pashtun  chieftains  in  pre-modern  period.  Probably,  the earliest  report  on  a  tribal  census  belonged  to  the  Sunni theologian  and  preacher  Akhūnd  Darweza  (d.  1618/19  or

1638/39) who provided in his Persian work Taẕkirat al-abrār wa-l-ashrār a short account of administrative activities of the Yūsufzay chief Shaykh Malī in the first half of the sixteenth century including the distribution of fertile lands in the Swāt valley  between  clans  in  proportion  with  the  number  of families.  The  results  of  this  census  as  well  as  the  rules  of land  ownership  in  Swāt  were  registered  in  Daftar,  Shaykh Malī’s “Record book” in Pashto, of which the original is lost. Much   more   information   on   tribal   demography   can   be extracted  from  “The  Khaṫaks’  Chronicle,”  a  collection  of various historiographical accounts, documents and memoirs written in Pashto by the  Khaṫak  rulers Khushḥāl  Khān (d.

1689)  and  his  grandson  Afżal  Khān  (d. circa  1740/41).

Besides  exact  data  on  the  number  of  families  in  all  the Khaṫak subdivisions and clans, which reflect the practice of periodical   censuses,   “The   Chronicle”   contains   valuable statistic material on birth dynamics, infant mortality, impact of  external  negative  factors,  such  as  epidemics  and  natural disasters  that  continuously  affected  demographic  indexes. The extant sources also shed light on family and matrimonial relations   among   Pashtuns   in   the   early   modern   times, disclosing subtle connections between social-ethical matters and  demographic  issues.  The  facts  examined  in  the  paper indicate that Pashtun tribal rulers were well familiar with the basics of practical demography, including census technique, which  they  needed  to  monitor  the  number  of  tribesmen while  accomplishing   specific  administrative,  military  and economic  tasks.  On  the  other  hand,  they  regarded  statistic data  as  a  necessary  constituent  of  tribal  knowledge  to  be transmitted to successive generations.

The Sikh Community’s Political and Social Role in


Riccardo Bonotto

EHESS, Paris

In this paper I would like to present my research in progress regarding  the Sikh community’s history, political and  social role in Afghanistan, especially during  the XX and  the XXI century. The specific geographic position of Afghanistan, on the trading routes from India to Central Asia and from India to Persia, enabled Afghanistan to become a key country for the  trading  caravans  that  traveled  within  these  geographic areas.

Like in the previously mentioned areas, merchants from India  could  prosper  by  dedicating  themselves  to  merchant activities of  credit and  intermediary from  the  XVI  century. Within these people, the Sikh that moved to the major cities (Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Mazar-i Sharif, Herat and many other) on the trading routes between India, Central Asia and Persia  had  a  specific  role.  The  Sikh  community  could  live, and in some cases prosper, thanks to the two main activities led  by  its  members  in  Afghanistan  :  trading  and  ayurvedic pharmacy (yunani hakim). The Sikh are still present today in Afghanistan,  with  their  neighbourhoods,  their  stores  and their  places  of  worship,  although  their  number  has  been substantially reduced in the late years.

As a non muslim minority, the Sikh has a special status, resulting    from    their    dhimmi    condition.    The    various constitutions  that  were  written  in  Afghanistan  has  always included special arrangements for them (protection, specific taxes, freedom of religion, ...), until the current constitution that saves them a seat in the Afghan parliament as a Hindu and Sikh’s community delegate.

In  this  paper  I  will  analyse  the  various  changes  in  the constitution  and  the  laws  concerning  the  Sikh  minority during  the  XX  and  the  XXI  century  and  their  current situation, also presenting the case of some Sikh people that recently settled in France as political refugees.

Pro-regime Posters, Postage Stamps and Photographs in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan — a work in progress

Mateusz M. Kłagisz

Jagiellonian University, Kraków

In my contribution to the first CESAI conference of Afghan Studies, I would like to present my work in progress—Visual Propaganda in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan—on posters,  postage  stamps  and  photographs  published  by  the DRA  (1978–92)  government.  It  is  an  interesting  fact  that shortly after the April 1978 takeover, the would-be Afghan communists decided to make maximum use of all means of propaganda—i.e. radio, press, as well as images. To elaborate on the role visual propaganda played I have created the term Bildkultur  proposed  by  Growald  in  his  Der  Plakat-Spiegel: Erfahrungssatze     für     Plakat-Künstler     und     Besteller. Bildkultur is an open-access, culturally-constructed semantic system  made  up  of  pictorial  signs  used  for  mass    (re-) creation,  (re-)transfer  and  (re-)storage  of  common  memory on  the  same  (or  similar)  terms  as  high  or  popular  Afghan poetry  had  been  operating  on  for  centuries.  Barthes  wrote that:  ‘[t]here  are  those  who  think  that  the  image  is  an extremely rudimentary system in  comparison  with language and  those  who  think  that  signification  cannot  exhaust  the imageʼs ineffable richness.’ Therefore, a picture plays a more complex   role   than   merely   aesthetic   and   embraces   in Afghanistan, inter alia, the takbir sentence, the basmala one, or the name of the Prophet Muhammad. They can be ‘read’ by   illiterates   who   recognise   their   complex   calligraphic structures rather than particular letters. Taking into account the  traditional  Islamic  approach  towards  the  image,  one should   emphasise   here   that   in   Sunni   Afghanistan,   the Bildkultur,  represented  by  Bollywood/Lollywood  posters, religious   pictures,   paintings   on    trucks,   in   teahouses, schoolbooks  and  bills,  flyers,  hoardings,  photography  and television is, contrary to neighbouring Iran and Pakistan, still in stadium nascendi.

Commodities, Merchants, and Refugees: Inter-Asian

Circulations and Afghan Mobility

Magnus Marsden

University of Sussex

This   paper   analyses   ethnographic   material   concerning Afghan  trading  networks  involved  in  both  the  export  of commodities  from  China  to  a  variety  of  settings  across Eurasia and the movement of “refugees” from Afghanistan to Europe. While much recent work on trading networks has deployed the concept of trust to understand the functioning of  such  social  formations,  this  article  seeks  to  understand their durability through combined recognition of the ways in which  Afghan  networks  are  polycentric  and  multi-nodal, successful in transforming their collective aims and projects in  changing  shifting  political  and  economic  circumstances, and  made-up  of  individuals  able  to  shift  their  statuses  and activities   within   trading   networks   over   time.   It   argues furthermore  that  a  focus  on  the  precise  ways  in  which traders  entrust  capital,  people  and  commodities  to  one another, reveals the extent to which social and  commercial relationships    inside    trading    networks    are    frequently impermanent  and  pregnant  with  concerns  about  mistrust and contingency. Recognition of this suggests that scholars should   focus   on   practices   of   entrustment   rather   than abstract notions of trust in their analyses of trading networks per se, as well as seek to better understand the ways in which these practices enable actors to handle and address questions of contingency.

Position of Afghan refugees in Iranian society

Anton Evstratov

Russian-Armenian University, Yerevan

More than three million refugees left to Iran because of the dangerous situation in their country, and statistics have not diminished  over  the  past  few  years.    About  three  million Afghans live in Iran now. In fact, only about 30% of them have  refugee  status.  Both  legal  Afghan  migrants  and  illegal immigrants  often  face  social  (restrictions  in  rights,  illegal exploitation),   economic   (underestimated   wages),   political (difficulties in obtaining legal status) and mental (rejection of society, isolation) problems.

This  article  analyzes  the  position  of  Afghans  in  Iran, taking into account the above circumstances.

From Takht-i Sulaiman to the Banks of the Oxus: The Bounds of Afghanistan Studies Past, Present and Future

Benjamin Hopkins

The George Washington University

Louis  Dupree,  the  famous  American  anthropologist,  once apocryphally   quipped   that   everything   we   know   about Afghanistan  is  a  mere  footnote  to  the  definitional  work  of Mountstuart  Elphinstone.  While  knowledge  of  the  country and  its  peoples  owes  much  to,  and  in  many  ways  remains trapped by the lines of inquiry laid down two centuries ago, the new scholarship is now breaking free of such restrictive bonds.   This   is   an   exciting   time   to   be   a   student   of Afghanistan  as  the  last  15  years  has  witnessed  a  veritable explosion   of   serious   and   engaged   research   about   the country. This new wave of scholarship, much of it produced by     young     Afghan     scholars,     promises     to     remake understandings of the place and its people for a generation to come. Yet this scholarship needs to be considered in its moment  of  knowledge  production.  It  seems  odd  that  the body  of  a  national  historiography  is  being  enriched  at  the moment  when  a  national  frame  of  historical  reference  is being challenged within the academy. Further, the very idea of   ‘Afghanistan’   studies   carries   with   it   certain   implicit assumptions about the place, its people, and its past that are contested in contemporary politics. To explore these issues, this talk will critically consider the meaning  of Afghanistan studies as well as how the new and forthcoming scholarship challenges,   undermines   and   alternatively   reinforces   that meaning.

Reflecting Back and Thinking Forward:

Using an Indigenous Methodology in Afghan Studies

Hogai Aryoubi

University of Cambridge

Numerous traditional social science research methods, such as  ethnography,  have  their  roots  in  the  colonial  enterprise. Undertaken  in  foreign  settings,  they  were  used  to  gather knowledge   on   the   colonized   ‘other’.   Researchers   using methods,  such  as  ethnography,  attempted  to  be  objective outsiders  and  in  this  way  treated  subjects  as  objects,  often dehumanising  them,  while  ignoring  their  own  position  of privilege   and   power   (Lewis   1973).   This   colonial   and dehumanising  history  has  led  Indigenous  peoples  to  label research as ‘one of the dirtiest words’ (Smith 2012, 1), and who have been made the object of such extensive research that one subject remarked, ‘We’ve been researched to death’ (Goodman  et  al.  2018).  A  significant  issue  with  studies conducted     by     large     global     organizations,     external consultants,  and  others  in  Afghanistan,  is  the  neo-colonial attitude that tends to still come with the ‘subject to object’ quantitative research orientation.

Non-quantitative  neo-colonial  research  is  when  studies are   created,   conducted,   produced,   and   owned   by   the investigators,  though  the  knowledge  and  experiences  come from the subjects. Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Margaret Kovach, and Bagele Chilisa have been leading the field in Indigenous methodology and the decolonization of research paradigms. Indigenous  methodology  is  informed  by  indigenous  and tribal knowledge systems (Chilisa 2012), thus, Kovach (2016) argues that the dismissal of Indigenous methodologies is the dismissal  of  certain  knowledges,  and  therefore,  a  form  of neo-colonialism.  Further,  there  is  a  necessity  for  studies  in Afghanistan  to  be  co-created,  co-conducted,  co-produced, and  co-owned,  with  the  participants  and  communities  that are  involved  for  research  to  be  ethical  and  just.  This  is especially    significant    responsibility    for    the    external researcher when the when the research setting or community is  located   in  the  global   south   and   subjects  can  be  in vulnerable positions.


Chilisa,  Bagele.  2012.   Indigenous  Research  Methodologies.  Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.

Goodman, Ashley, Rob Morgan, Ron Kuehlke, Shelda Kastor, Kim Fleming,   Jade   Boyd,   and   Others.   2018.   “‘We’ve Been Researched to Death’: Exploring the Research Experiences of Urban   Indigenous   Peoples   in   Vancouver,   Canada.”   The International Indigenous Policy Journal 9 (2):3.

Kovach,    Margaret.    2016.    “Moving   Forward,    Pushing    Back: Indigenous  Methodologies  in  the  Academy.”  In  Qualitative Inquiry through a Critical Lens, 39–48. Routledge.

Lewis,   Diane.   1973.   “Anthropology   and   Colonialism.”   Current Anthropology.

Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. 2012. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Second. London: Zed Books Ltd.

Protest for Progress:

Reassessing Political Activism of Students in

Afghanistan, 1964 - 973

Kyara Klausmann

Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient

Between 1964 and 1973, high school and university students staged  demonstrations  and  strikes  in  all  major  cities  of Afghanistan. Even though scholars describe these events as the  beginning  of  the  end  of  a  long  peaceful  period  in  the history  of  Afghanistan,  the  students’  movements  have  not yet received enough scholarly attention. Analyses remain on a  superficial  level  by  focusing  on  party  structures,  political leaders, and ideologies. In some cases, scholars describe the students as naïve objects of foreign intelligence services. To understand   the   students’   movements,   however,   it   is necessary  to  consider  the  individual  experiences  of  the activists as well as the global context, in which they acted. A nuanced and in-depth analysis shows the complexity of the aspirations,  which  incited  the  students’  political  activism.  I will argue that the students’ protests were a reaction to their disappointed  hopes  for  progress.  The  students  benefited from    the    Cold    War    competition    for    influence    in Afghanistan,   because   their   education   was   facilitated   by international  aid.  On  the  one  hand,  they  thus  experienced the   meaning   of   the   promise   of   progress   implied   by development aid in their own lives. On the other hand, they saw the dependency of Afghanistan on international support and  the  limited  impact  this  support  had:  Curricula  were imported from international universities without adoption to the   local   requirements,   the   vast   majority   of   people   in Afghanistan remained illiterate and lived in poverty, and the government was inefficient and corrupt. In this situation, the existing political actors did not provide the students with a vision    of    the    future    they    believed    in.    It    is    this disappointment, which motivated the students to engage in politics.  Based  on  oral  history  interviews  and  embedded  in literature on the Global Cold War and  the Global 1960s, I will  show  that  the  students  participating  in  strikes  and demonstrations were not objects but subjects of history. As a  reaction  to  the  unfulfilled   promise  of  progress,  they critically dealt with the narratives of progress present in  their own  lives,  and  looked  for  alternative  ways  to  improve  the situation of their country.

Learning from the Past:

Four Decades of Peace-making Efforts in and for


Katja Mielke

Internationales Konversionszentrum Bonn

(Peace and Conflict Research Institute)

Afghanistan  is  in  its  fortieth  year  of  war,  albeit  armed violence  has  been  accompanied  with  efforts  for  conflict resolution  and  peace-making  from  as  early  as  1980. Actors involved  in  peace-making  range  from  the  United  Nations, various Governments of Afghanistan and  political factions, to  Afghan  non-state  actors  inside  and  outside  the  country (including members of the exile communities in the region, Europe  and  the  US),  as  well  as  a  broad  spectrum  of  state actors from among the international community. While the geopolitical    narrative    that    ascribes    the    ‘fight    against communism’    as    Cold    War    ideology    a    determining significance for the continuation of war, peace initiatives and talks  after  1989  did  not  lead  to  peace  either.  Against  this background  of  failed  outcomes,  this  presentation  takes   

a process-perspective to ask where the difficulties to achieving peace and an end to the armed conflict stem from.

Prominently, war-economy and geopolitical approaches have so far dominated explanations for enduring war around the world. However, an anthropological perspective on peace processes (in their dependence on external conditions, opportunity structures and actor constellations) largely constitutes a desideratum. By taking examples of peace initiatives by different actors and preliminary or advanced negotiations at different points of time since the early 1980s, this presentation seeks to investigate patterns of difference and commonalities with a focus on actual negotiations or interactions between the immediate conflict parties and mediators. The insights could potentially point to pitfalls in the micro-dynamics of current peace efforts for Afghanistan.

Unstable Afghanistan: Players, Negotiations, Future

Vladimir Plastun

Novosibirsk State University

1. Throughout 2018, the situation  in Afghanistan remained extremely  tense.  The  Kabul  government  is  not  able  to provide  internal  consolidation  to  achieve  peace  and  solve social and economic problems. 2.  Washington  has  indicated  its  intention  to  accelerate  the exit  from  the  “Afghan  crisis”.  The  USA  was  forced  to recognize  the  “Taliban  Movement”  (DT)  as  a  real  force, which  claims  to  participate  in  power  structures.  According to  various  estimates,  the  Taliban  control  40-60%  of  the country's territory. Military successes allowed them to reject  the  proposals  on  the  division  of  power  proposed  by Kabul   (agreed   with   the   USA)   and   to   demand   the unconditional  withdrawal  of  “occupation”  troops  from  the country.  The  lack  of  real  progress  in  resolving  the  crisis made Washington push Kabul into active negotiations with the Taliban.

3.  The  course  of  the  European  Union  with  respect  to Afghanistan has recently been attributed to its political and economic strategy in the post-Soviet states of Central Asia. Washington also recognizes the influence of regional states neighboring   Afghanistan   and,   apparently,   is   ready   to cooperate with them, but only selectively and only in those areas    that    meet    American    interests.    Formally,    USA recognizes  the  significance  of  Russia's  role  in  the process,  but  at  the  same  time  tries  to  push  Moscow  away from active participation in the Afghan settlement.

4.  China,  Russia  and  Iran  are  also  concerned  about  the presence  of  ISIL’s  (banned  in  the  Russia)  militants  in  a number  of  regions  of  Afghanistan  in  the  person  of  the “Islamic  State  of  Khorasan  Province”  –  peoples  who  are from the Central Asian countries by birth.

5.  Without  guaranteed  stability  and  peace  in  an  IRA,  the involvement  of  this  country  in  regional  and  interregional economic cooperation is hardly possible. Recently, the SCO- Afghanistan Contact Group resumed its work, the meetings of which (in October 2017 and May 2018) were held in an expanded  format,  i.e.  with  the  participation  of  India  and Pakistan.

6. Negotiations between US and DT representatives in Qatar are nearing completion. The main topics of the negotiations:

1)  the  withdrawal  of  American  troops;  2)  the  guarantee  of non-use of the territory of Afghanistan as a threat to other countries; 3) a complete cease-fire and 4) direct negotiations with the Afghan government.

The  future  of  Afghanistan  and  the  region  depends  on  the outcome of the negotiations.

The  Colour-names in the Toponymy of


Elahe Taghvaei

Russian-Armenian University, Yerevan

The  paper  is  dedicated  to  study  of  a  specific  group  of Afghan  toponyms  created  with  colour-  names.  The  study covers mainly Persian-speaking areas of country. The place- names  formed  with  this  principle  are  classified  by  several criteria-predominantly    by    the    structural    characteristics, origins and with regard to their semantic aspect. Our study clearly  shows  that  this  kind  of  toponyms  constitutes  an overwhelming  part  of  the  toponomastics  of  Afghanistan’s Persian-speaking regions.
On the Ethnonym “Afghan” in Classical Persian Texts

Amir Zeyghami

Russian-Armenian University, Yerevan

The ethnonym “Afghan” (Afġān) denotes a member of the Pashtun society. This ethnic group is first mentioned by the Indian astronomer Varāha Mihira in the beginning of the 6th century A.D., under the form Avagāṇa.

The  earliest  mention  of  the  ethnonym  Afghan  in  the Persian    language    is    attested    in    the    famous    Persian geographical  text  Ḥudūd  al-ʻAlam  min  al-Mašriq  ʼila  al- maġrib by an unknown author of the 4 th century AH/10 th century A.D.

The  origin  of  the  Afghāns,  like  other  ethnic  groups  is

unclear.  This  term  is  similarly  deprived  of  a  convincing etymology. The Afghans (ناغوا/ناغفا) in the classical Persian literature feature as a nomadic tribe like Kurds and Baluchs. According to Moḥammad-Taqī Bahār, the main name of the Afghans has been Puxtān.

The paper is devoted to the semantic study of the term

“Afghan” in Persian literature and lexicography.

Neutral Grounds? Photographic Archives of Swiss

Architects working in Afghanistan during World War II

Filine Wagner

Università della Svizzera italiana

The    extensive    holdings    of    the    Phototheca    of    the Afghanistan Institute in Bubendorf, canton Baselland, whose countless photographs range from  the mid-19th century to the  end  of  the  20th  century,  are  undoubtedly  significant testimonies to the history and culture of a country drawn by decades of armed conflict. Not only are many of the physical landscape  features,  cities,  buildings,  archaeological  sites,  or works  of  art  documented  in  the  Phototheca  Afghanica destroyed.  Even  historical  photographs  themselves  have been  systematically  wiped  out  in  Afghanistan  since  1978 partly for ideological reasons, partly left unattended to their disintegration.

Within  this  collection  of  international  provenance,  the photographic  archives  of  the  engineer  Alf  de  Spindler  and the architects Rudolf Stuckert and  Alfred  E. Engler, which document  their  works  in  Kabul  and  Herat  as  well  as  their numerous     excursions     through     Afghanistan,     attract immediately    attention.    Not    only    are    they    the    sole photographic   collections   of   Swiss   origin,   but   all   three collections were created during the Second World War. But do  these  photographs  simply  document  the  entanglements of   two   presumably   neutral   countries   at   that   time?   By examining   the   traces   and   the   origin   of   these   three photographic archives, this paper attempts to illuminate the hitherto unknown history of Swiss architects in Afghanistan. It seeks to show that the photographs can be understood as a  visible  vestige  of  architecture  as  a  thoroughly  conscious instrument   of   Swiss   foreign   policy   during   wartime   to enhance the political and economic role played by the small alpine country. Taking these three visual archives as example I intend to argue that the photographs can not only be read as  an  important  collection  for  the  history  and  culture  of Afghanistan, but also as political agents that form a counter- archive  for  the  historiography  of  Switzerland  as  a  neutral country.

Exploring Archived Collections; the 1950-51 Archaeological Survey around Kandahar

Heidi J. Miller

Middlesex Community College

Archaeology  has  a  distinct  role  to  play  in  bringing  to  light the  rich  and  diverse  history  of  Afghanistan,  by  re-creating and  exploring  the  unwritten  record  of  past  cultures  in  this land  of  cross-roads.  This  presentation  will  focus  on  the archaeological   survey   work   conducted   during   the   mid- twentieth  century  by  the  Americans  Walter  Fairservis  and Louis  Dupree.  Much  of  their  material  is  housed  in  the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University,  and  while  it  is  possible  to  point  to  quite  a number  of  publications  by  both  Dupree  and  Fairservis  of their   various   expeditions   and   excavations,   there   is   a significant   portion   of   the   material   that   remains   only preliminarily  studied  and  unpublished.  Here  I  will  briefly explore  Fairservis’  survey  around  Kandahar  in  1950-1951 where  more  than  a  dozen  sites  were  documented  and  a collection was made, occasionally with a small test trench at some  of  the  sites.  I  hope  to  demonstrate  the  historical richness   that   can   be   accessed   by   exploring   archived collections  and  to  shed  light  on  the  variation  of  historical remains that can be found around Kandahar’s immediate area.

The Centre- Periphery Relation: An Area of

Cooperation or Contestation in Afghanistan

Anchita Borthakur

Jawaharlal Nehru University

The  relation  between  the  centre  and  periphery  has  been complex   since   the   formation   of   the   Afghan   state   in 1747. Although  the  “iron  Amir”  Abdur  Rahman  is  credited with  the  establishment  of  a  centralized  Afghan  state  by bringing in its fold all the urban centers and the autonomous tribal areas, yet the contestation between the state power and pre-state  structures  especially  in  the  peripheral  areas  has always been evident in Afghanistan. It is witnessed that for many  Afghans  the  boundary  of  Afghanistan  has  exceeded far beyond its internationally recognised borders especially in the  south  and  the  eastern  part.  In  reality  geography  is  the product of a struggle between competing authorities to have control over a particular space or territory. Though the birth of  a  state  (in  a  particular  territory)  is  comparatively  a  new phenomenon, but the history of a territory inhabited by the people dates back to thousands of years. Since with history, the cultural practices followed by the people in a territory are also  closely  related,  therefore  the  subsequent  mapping  of these territories created not only new geographies but also a number of problems associated with it. Therefore once the political  boundary  of  a  state  is  demarcated  and  the  people  surrounding   the   border   areas   who   share   the   common cultural linkages are divided between multiple territories as a part of the division, problems arose, which later on resulted into  the  ambivalent  nature  of  the  borders.  The  population living in the peripheries are seen to be most affected by this phenomenon  as  they,  for  the  most  part,  try  to  resist  this “territorial trap”. But unlike the days of pre-war Afghanistan, now a feeling of Afghanness/Afghaniyat has overridden the ethnic, tribal and local identities of the Afghan people, and the  impact  of  which  can  be  seen  even  in  the  peripheries. Although a substantial number of Afghans still consider the local or the private affairs to be handled through their own local traditions and  structures, yet  the presence of a strong state in the periphery is desired by them for the maintenance of peace and security in the region. Therefore this paper will be an attempt to highlight the centre-periphery conundrum in Afghanistan. It will also try to analyse the contradictions and the corroboration between the state power and the pre- state  structures  especially  in  the  peripheries  of  Afghanistan at the present context.

Centre-Peripheries Relations and Cultural Encounters in Afghan Tribal Dynamics:

A Study in Historical Perspective

M. Waseem Raja

Aligarh Muslim University

Periphery and Centre Equation; For understanding most of the   present   ills   of   Afghanistan,   an   in-depth   study   of Afghanistan’s transition from Medievalism to Modernism in historical  perspective  is  required.  The  question  of  relation between  “periphery  and  Centre”  can  best  be  understood only  in  the  framework  of  Afghan  tribalism.  Afghanistan  is made up of conglomerate of tribes. It had constant ‘Pull and Push   factors’   operating   and   destabilising   the   political foundation   of   the   country.   The   dominant   tribes   often operated  on  agenda  of  hegemony,  whereas  smaller  tribes always craved for assimilation and respect. The tribal mosaic of  Pushtuns,  Uzbecks,  Hazaras,  Turkomen,  Kizillbash  and several  other  tribes  have  acted  in  this  ‘tribal  jigsaw’  of periphery  and  Centre,  keeping  Afghan  political  cauldron boiling  all  the  time.  Issue  of  integration  and  absorption;  A tribal  society  such  as  Pushtun  is  more  resilient  to  national integration and always desires hegemony. The tribal societies like  the  Afghans  thus  tend   to   give  a   high   priority  to autonomy   and   resists   with   equal   vigor   both   political domination  and  political  modernization.  Sometimes  they tended  to  represent  parallel  structures  along  with  central government  and  thus  tussle  ensued  from  both  sides.  The code of ‘Pushtunwali’ as cultural milieu worked as deterrent for larger integration.

Afghan  Tribes  and  power  struggle;  The  root  of  such tribalism   is   also   reflected   in   geopolitical   settings   and perennial  dynastic  wars  during  the  late  19th-20th  century Afghanistan.   It   helped   the   tribes   to   defy   the   central government.   The   tribal   power   equations   determine   the nature  and  the  longevity  of  the  rule  in  Kabul.  Historically, the conflict between the Central government and the tribes manifested  itself  in  a  state  of  dynamic  tension,  Centre favouring  one  side  against  the  other,  always  seeking  the precarious  balance  of  power.  In  many  cases  Afghan  tribes acted   as   “King   makers   and   king   breakers”   even  some governments survived with their help only.

Reasons   for   Political   instability;   the   much   needed political instability was never achieved even till late during 1 st   quarter   of   20   th   Century.   The   continued   Pushtun appeasement by the ruling elite, left remaining other tribes to sulk and  develop fissiparous tendencies. With ‘Pushtunism’ becoming synonymous with Afghanistan, the country never has   had   the   cohesion   and   consistency   of   a   regular monarchical government in the past. The tribes continued to show fissiparous tendencies even during 20th century.

This paper will largely explore and focus on the aspects of the Reform and rebellion during Amir Amanullah khan’s reign, as a model to this thesis of Centre- periphery relation.

Understanding Arab Influence in the Socio-Culture and

Islamic Polity in Afghanistan

Angana Kotokey

Jawaharlal Nehru University

Afghanistan is the land of diverse invasions, emanating from Central Asia, West Asia and from the Indian sub- continent that renders it pluralist in character, and sends the religion or Islam as the common denominator among all. The religious polity in Afghanistan has from time to time come under the influence  of  both  regional  and  extra-regional  powers.  One such   apprehension   from   scholars   across   the   globe   on Afghanistan has been that the country in different phases of history has come under the influence of the Arab world. The upcoming use of words like Allah Hafiz, Ramadan Kareem, Al  and  the  Bin  prefixes  before  names  are  often  taken  as examples  by  authors  to  show  the  growing  Arab  world’s influence  upon  the  socio-cultural  life  of  the  Afghan  state. The  diversities  in  the  Afghan  culture  and  traditions  were once   again   brought   to   the   notice   of   the   international community  when  in  the  year  2016,  Afghanistan  came  out with  the  first  ever  Silk  Quran.  The  specialty  of  this  Quran lies  in  the  fact  that  it  involves  different  calligraphers  and calligraphy  from  across  the  globe  (Persian,  Turkic,  Arab, Mongol calligraphy), highlighting the cultural encounters the Afghan  state  had  under  different  invasions.  Arab  Islamic influence  made  its  footprints  in  Afghanistan  with  the  early Arab  conquest.  Arab  world’s  influence  in  Afghanistan’s social  fabric  kept  appearing  and  re-appearing  during  the

20thand  the  21stcentury,first   as  intellectual  heads(during Islamic  Awakening  period  of  early  1920s)and  secondly  as fighters  and  commandos  during   the  Soviet   invasion  of Afghanistan respectively. Both as  intellectual moorings  and international fighters, Arabs have had and are still having a considerable influence in the cultural life of the people living in Afghanistan .This paper will focus on the Arab’s culture and   encounters   with   the   Afghan   state   through   the intellectual discourse. The intellectual connections that were built between scholars from Afghanistan and the Arab world during   the   early   1920s   not   only   helped   in   ideological moorings but also helped in the formation of Afghanistan’s national identity. Therefore, this study will be an attempt to highlight the different transitions that have occurred in Arab world’s relation with Afghanistan and how those encounters shaped the socio-cultural milieu of the Afghan society.

Colonialism at the Fringes of Empire:

Re-assessing Afghanistan’s Place in British Colonial

History, 1857-1900

Francesca Fuoli

University of Bern

In the decades that followed the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the British   colonial   state   in   India   pursued   a   policy   of consolidation   and   administrative   systematisation.   More strikingly, at the same time, it also pursued active territorial expansion  along  its  northern  frontiers,  something  that  has often been overlooked in historical writing on the period. In the  north-west,  the  British  incorporated  Baluchistan,  Dir, Swat,   Hunza,   Chitral,   Kashmir,   pushing   their   frontier upwards.  In  the  case  of  Afghanistan,  they  attempted  to break up the region into a number of colonies to which they applied alternatively the models of the Indian Princely States and of the directly ruled domains. As a consequence of these policies, Afghanistan went from being a loose political entity to becoming the state we know it today. This paper shows that this late expansion in South Asia continued many of the forms  and  strategies  pursued  during  the  early  days  of  the East  India  Company  conquest,  thus  questioning  historians’ arguments about a radical shift in the quality and outlook of the   modern   colonial   state   in   the   second   half   of   the nineteenth  century.  It  argues  that  at  the  fringes  of  empire, the  British  continued  to  be  comfortable  with  ideas  and practices  of  colonisation  that  were  not  part  of  Western modernity and which continued to embed native power and politics into their empire-building.

The  case  of  Afghanistan  re-focuses  the  debate  on  the meanings  and  boundaries  of  colonialism,  especially  when pursued without formal rule, and what should be understood under  colony.  In  this  context,  this  paper  engages  with  the contradictory   ideas   that   the   British   Indian   government applied during its territorial expansion: they combined ideas of    modern    international    boundaries    and    Westphalian statehood with blurred ideas on sovereignty and territoriality. Afghanistan  became  a  ground  of  experimentation  where colonial    officials    themselves    refused    to    box    their understandings  of  Afghanistan’s  place  within  the  British empire in clearly defined categories. They continued to use terms  such  as  protectorate,  sphere  of  interference,  buffer state  and  colony  interchangeably,  without  precisely  laying down  their  meaning.  The  ideas  of  statehood  and  colonial influence  elaborated  in  this  context  would  be  taken,  via military  expeditions  and  boundary  commissions  to,  among other regions, Eastern Africa and the Arabic Peninsula, thus highlighting the empire-wide importance of this case study.

Ismailis in the Afghan War 1979-1989: 

Fighting on Both Sides

Viktoria Arakelova,

Nelli Khachaturian

Russian-Armenian University, Yerevan

For the Ismailis of Afghanistan, who had long been regarded with suspicion by the neighbouring Muslims because of their heterodox  religious  views  and,  yet,  remained  a  prosperous community,  the  Afghan  War  (1979-1989)  became  another dramatic milestone in their already complicated history.  The specific  identity  of  the  Afghan  Ismailis  made  them  the hostages  of the  situation, in which the very  survival of  the community was questioned.

The Afghan Ismailis were mainly  reported  to side with the Soviets. However, there are data pointing to the fact that they were fighting on both sides.

The article discusses the status of the Ismaili community in   Afghanistan   during   the   Afghan   war   of   1979-1989, focusing on their participation in hostilities and the influence of   the   conflict   on   the   dynamics   of   the   community’s development during that period.

Among the sources used in the research are the memoirs the Afghan war veterans.

The Battle for Minds in Cold War Afghanistan: Outlining a US Information Management Regime

Shah Mahmoud Hanifi

James Madison University

During   the   Cold   War   period,   the   Helmand   (and   later Arghandab)     Valley     development     project     and     the Pashtunistan dispute were the primary issues that structured relations   between   the   United   States   and   Afghanistan. Complementing and subsumed within these two over-riding areas of concern and interaction for the US were a number of  programs  and  initiatives  that  focused  on  transforming mentalities  and  attitudes  of  Afghans.  This  paper  addresses education  and  the  media  as  primary  battlefields  where  the US    sought    to    capture    local    minds    in    Afghanistan. Voluminous State Department records held at the National Archives  at  College  Park,  Maryland,  indicate  that  in  the

1950s and 1960s the US exercised considerable influence in the  country  through  the  distribution  of  printed  materials (books, magazines, pamphlets) and motion picture films, and the provisioning of educational opportunities for Afghans in US  colleges  and  universities.  The  paper  considers  how  the US surveilled and weaponized education, entertainment and literature   for   psychological   and   political   offensives   in Afghanistan   during   the   height   of   the   Cold   War.   The expansion of US capital in Afghanistan via the Helmand and Arghandab Valley Authority (HAVA) was accompanied and undergirded   by   an   expanding   information   management regime targeting schools, students, teachers, bureaucrats and political elites in Kabul especially but also other locations in the country. The prospect of Pashtunistan and the reality of Soviet  engagement  and  influence  were  primary  objects  of surveillance     and     information     collection,     and     the dissemination  of  ideological  propaganda  and  provision  of material incentives occurred both in Afghanistan and via the Embassy  of  Afghanistan  in  Washington  DC.  Focusing  on records concerning education, literature and film embedded within  a   larger   set   of  materials   related   to  HAVA   and Pashtunistan, this talk will outline a dense and multilayered network of individual channels and institutional pathways of communication  that  structured  the  political  economy  of information management by the US in Afghanistan and over Afghan   citizens   in   the   US   and   elsewhere   in   diaspora. Focusing  broadly  on  intellectual  production,  educational exchange  and  public  media,  the  presentation  will  offer  a cultural  reading  of  bilateral  relations  between  the  US  and Afghanistan during the Cold War. A subsidiary objective of the presentation will be to encourage more systematic work through an astounding volume (on the order of multiple tens of  thousands,  perhaps  hundreds  of  thousands  of  pages)  of relatively easily accessible material addressing the expanding US  presence  and  influence  in  Afghanistan  during  the  Cold War.


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February 04, 2021