Pamphleteer Anthropology and the Production of Knowledge about Afghanistan

The military occupation of Afghanistan by the United States and its partners has spawned floods of popular and academic writings and visual effects about the culture, history and politics of the country. A leading contributor to these stores of information about Afghanistan is Thomas Jefferson Barfield, currently professor of anthropology at Boston University and president… Read More Pamphleteer Anthropology and the Production of Knowledge about Afghanistan

Distorting Theory and Misreading Society in Afghanistan

This is in response to M. Nazif Shahrani’s piece titled “The Taliban Enigma: Person-Centered Politics & Extremism in Afghanistan” published in ISIM Newsletter 6, October 2000, pp. 20-21. Crucial ethnographic details, structural principles and historical processes, especially those dealing with social inequality and political instability in contemporary Afghanistan, are misunderstood, garbled, and oversimplified by the… Read More Distorting Theory and Misreading Society in Afghanistan

Separate Realities, Centers of Gravity and Global COIN’s Cultural “Solvent”

Maimana, the capital of Faryab Province, as I photographed part of it in 1969 The new USNATO military base at Maimana. Note the farmland plowed up to prevent approach and to prevent improvised explosive devices to be hidden there by the occupied peoples. Stand back! You are too close. [Note: this article incorporates some text… Read More Separate Realities, Centers of Gravity and Global COIN’s Cultural “Solvent”

Vending Distorted Afghanistan Through Patriotic ‘Anthropology’

First published in Critique of Anthropology, 2011, 31(3) 256–270 Review Essay: Thomas Barfield, Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010, xi + 389 pp. ISBN 978-0-691-14568-6. $29.95 (hbk) The destabilization and military occupation of Afghanistan by the United States over the past three decades has triggered the hasty production of… Read More Vending Distorted Afghanistan Through Patriotic ‘Anthropology’