Fall 2006
Great Games? Afghan History through Afghan Eyes
An International Conference of the UCLA Program on Central Asia
November 17-18, 2011

Charles E. Young Research Library Building
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1575

The year 2011 marks the eightieth anniversary of the death of Fayz Muhammad Katib, often considered to have been the founder of modern Afghan history writing. Whether in the present day or in the Katib’s own period, Afghans have long invested in a multiplicity of historiographical models to make sense of the tortured development path of the Afghan state. Recent international intervention in Afghanistan has created or reproduced many narratives of the Afghan national story, from repeatedly doomed invasions to perpetual fault lines of ethnic division. Yet very little attention has been given to the ways in which Afghans themselves have understood their history, whether as national Afghans or international socialists, as members of ethnic qawms or Muslims. This conference focuses on patterns and case studies of the historical writings which Afghans have produced in abundance since the formation of the Afghan state in the mid-eighteenth century and which form crucial but under-researched sources on Afghans’ own representations of state, society and culture. Bringing together the leading international specialists on Afghan historiography, the conference represents the first consolidated attempt to study the range of historical genres and narratives produced by Afghans themselves.

Funding for this conference is provided by the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies.

Sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies, Program on Central Asia, American Institute of Afghanistan Studies

In Afghanistan: AQ&A with Journalist/Author David Loyn
A Lecture by David Loyn, BBC
Monday, October 5, 2009 - 6PM
The Castle, 225 Bay State Road, Boston MA

Afghanistan has been a strategic prize for foreign empires for more than 200 years. The British, Russians, and Americans have all fought across its beautiful and inhospitable terrain, in conflicts variously ruthless, misguided and bloody. This violent history is the subject of David Loyn’s magisterial book. It is a history littered with misunderstandings and broken promises, in which the British, the Russians, and later the Americans, constantly underestimated the ability of the Afghans. In Afghanistan brilliantly brings to life the personalities involved in Afghanistan’s relationship with the world, chronicling the misunderstandings and missed opportunities that have so often led to war.

With 30 years experience as a foreign correspondent, David Loyn has had a front-row seat during Afghanistan’s recent history. In Afghanistan draws on David Loyn’s unrivalled knowledge of the Taliban and the forces that prevail in Afghanistan, to provide the definitive analysis of the lessons these conflicts have for the present day.

David Loyn has been an award-winning foreign correspondent for 30 years for the BBC. He has reported from such places as Moscow, Kosovo, Delhi, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Kabul. His book Frontline: The True Story of the British Mavericks who Changed the Face of War Reporting was shortlisted for the 2006 Orwell Prize. He is currently the BBC’s developing world correspondent. He lives in London.

Copies of In Afghanistan will be available for purchase following the talk.

AIAS Board of Trustees Meeting
Held in conjunction with 2009 MESA Conference
Saturday, November 21, 2009 9AM - 12:00 PM
Vineyard Room (4th Floor), Marriott Copley Place Hotel, Boston.

The 2009 Board of Trustees Meeting for AIAS will be held on Saturday, November 21, 2009 in conjunction with the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) conference at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel in Boston, MA. The meeting will begin approximately at 9 AM in the Vineyard Room at the hotel.

If you are a Board of Trustees member and plan on attending the annual board meeting, please contact Michael Carroll at aias@bu.edu as soon as possible.

If you plan to attend the Board meeting, or the MESA conference in general, AIAS would suggest going to the following site: http://www.mesa.arizona.edu/annual/current.htm


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Re-discovering Afghanistan's Hidden Treasures
Monday, September 14, 2009 5:00 PM
The Castle, 225 Bay State Road, Boston, MA

Dr. Fredrik Hiebert’s presentation, Re-discovering Afghanistan’s Hidden Treasures provides the back-story to the preservation of the masterpieces of the Kabul Museum. These artifacts, long-thought missing during two decades of civil war in Afghanistan, were actually hidden not destroyed or looted. It is a powerful double story – that of the rich heritage of Afghanistan as seen in its ancient art and artifacts, and that of the heroic efforts of the Afghan museum personnel to preserve these treasures during the chaotic recent history.

Dr. Hiebert, National Geographic Archaeology Fellow and curator of the exhibition Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, is an expert on the ancient cultures of Central Asia. He conducted field research in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and the Persian Gulf, primarily focused on Bronze Age cultures, before beginning a five-year project in Afghanistan to help document the preserved collections of the Kabul Museum. He has authored three books on ancient Central Asian cultures with an emphasis on the development of local cultures in their
environment. He studied at the University of Michigan and at Harvard and taught at the University of Pennsylvania before becoming a National Geographic Society Fellow in 2003.

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“Is Afghanistan a ‘failed state’? The Answer from one bazaar town.”
A Lecture by Noah Coburn
Tuesday, February 24, 2009 5:30 PM
Boston University
745 Commonwealth Ave. Room 625
Boston, MA 02215

The term ‘failed state’ has become increasingly popular both in anthropology and in discussions of Afghanistan. But what is a ‘failed state’ and is this a useful concept in thinking about the state and society in Afghanistan?

This talk will present research done by Noah Coburn in a small town north of Kabul over more than 18 months in 2006-8. Noah will outline the various political actors in town, ranging from former warlords to potters and mullahs, discussing how political power is culturally defined and organized. He will look at what the role of the state is amongst all this groups and ask whether it is useful to consider the Afghan state as failed.

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Click here to view video of the lecture.

Political Legitimacy and Economic Resources: An Anthropological Perspective on the Reconstruction of Afghanistan
A Lecture by: Alessandro Monsutti
Boston University GSU, Terrace Lounge
Monday, November 3, 2008 4:30 PM

This talk will examine the impact of transnational networks on local power games in Afghanistan in order to explain how the political economy of conflicts and post-conflicts is influenced by the circulation of external resources. Four main phenomena will be distinguished: the outside military support to the government as well as to the insurgents; the smuggling networks and drug trafficking; the involvement of the refugees and of the members of the wider diaspora in the Afghan political life; the role of humanitarian organizations and development experts in the reconstruction of the country. The last aspect will receive more attention through the study the National Solidarity Programme (NSP), a joint venture of the Government of Afghanistan and the World Bank which aims to rehabilitate and develop the rural regions of the country. The consistency of such an approach derives from a single methodological and theoretical premise: that a better understanding of how goods and know-how circulate sheds light on the power relations. When the state is weak, certain individuals, groups or institutions gain control over material as well as immaterial resources and their redistribution. This allows them to increase their political influences and constituencies. In this context, Dr. Monsutti will revisit the traditional notion of the state in order to highlight new forms of sovereignty and legitimacy related to the consolidation of transnational networks.


Click here to view video of the lecture

Afghanistan's Nuristan Region in Strategic and Ethnographic Context
A Lecture by: Richard Strand and David Katz
Boston University GSU, Room 310
Monday, October 15, 2007 4:00 PM

The region called Nuristan is one in a chain of ethnic refuge areas that line the mountains of the Indian Plate collision zone from Afghanistan to Southeast Asia. Nuristan lies in the Hindu Kush mountains of northeastern Afghanistan, spanning the basins of the Alingar, Pech, Landai Sin, and Kunar rivers. It is the homeland of a unique group of Indo-European-speaking tribal peoples, now called Nuristanis, who fled and resisted Islam as it spread eastward. In 1895-96 the Nuristanis were finally conquered by the Afghan armies of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, and the people were obliged to abandon their ancient religious beliefs in favor of Islam.

Nuristanis are today such devout Muslims that they were the first citizens of Afghanistan to successfully revolt against the communist overthrow of their government in 1978. Their success inspired others throughout the country to rise up against the Soviets. Today Nuristan remains a key region in a strategic and ethnographic context.

The event made possible with contributions from the Humanities Foundation at Boston University.

Watch lecture by Richard Strand (Requires Quicktime)
Watch lecture by David Katz (Requires Quicktime)
Watch post-lecture Q&A (Requires Quicktime)

Richard Strand

David Katz

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