Islamic Movements in the Pashtun Tribal
The Case of the Rawshaniyya and Beyond.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. https://doi.org/10.1086/201393.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.