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Afghan Society after the Taliban: The View from the Hills

Central Asia Initiative Panel Presentation: Leading anthropologists discuss contemporary Afghanistan

Monday, November 17, 2008
2:30 PM - 4:30 PM
UCLA Faculty Center
Downstairs Lounge
Los Angeles, CA 90095

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Bringing together two of Europe’s leading anthropologists of Afghanistan, this panel presentation explores crucial transformations in post-Taliban Afghanistan as manifested in the lives of ordinary Afghans. Alessandro Monsutti and Magnus Marsden have worked extensively in the mountain areas within and around Afghanistan and by looking beyond the security curtain around Kabul that contains most media coverage are able to present a rare ‘view from the hills’ on the rapid social transformations that define contemporary Afghanistan. They will be joined by the Afghan journalist Nushin Arbabzadah, who will draw on debates in the Afghan press in leading discussion of the two presentations.

Magnus Marsden is Lecturer in Social Anthropology of South and Central Asia at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is the author of Living Islam: Muslim Religious Experience in Pakistan's North-West Frontier (Cambridge). Since 1995, Prof. Marsden has been conducting ethnographic research in Chitral–a large and mountainous region in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, which shares a very long border with Afghanistan, and, in places, is only separated by 25 miles of Afghan territory from the post-Soviet Muslim-majority state of Tajikistan. His ethnographic work in Chitral has focused on the ways in which village and small town Muslims in the region have responded to the growing influence of reform-minded forms of Islam in the region, including those associated with the Taliban.

Alessandro Monsutti teaches anthropology, Middle East studies, migration studies and methods in social sciences at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. He is presently Research Fellow at the Program in Agrarian Studies, Yale University, for a project on the rural reconstruction of Afghanistan (2008-2009). Prof. Monsutti has carried out fieldwork in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran since 1993, and more recently in the Western countries among Afghan refugees and migrants thanks to a grant of the MacArthur Foundation.  His research interests focus on Afghanistan and its neighbouring countries, migration and refugees, transnational networks, kinship and ethnicity, qualitative methods in social sciences, humanitarian assistance. His publications in English include War and Migration: Social Networks and Economic Strategies of the Hazaras of Afghanistan (2005), and The Other Shiites: From the Mediterranean to Central Asia (edited with Silvia Naef and Farian Sabahi, 2007).

Nushin Arbabzadah, currently a Visiting Scholar at the Center for India and South Asia, was brought up in Kabul during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. She has graduate degrees in German and Spanish literature and linguistics from the University of Hamburg and in Middle Eastern Studies from Cambridge University, where she was a William H. Gates scholar. Nushin's first book, From Outside In: Refugees and British Society, was published in London by Arcadia in April 2007. She has also edited an anthology of contemporary journalistic writing from Muslim majority countries called No Ordinary Life: Being Young in the Worlds of Islam (London: British Council, 2005). Before coming to UCLA, Nushin worked for the BBC, where she specialized in social and political issues in contemporary Afghanistan.

For a review of this event, see Talk with the Taliban?

Also see Local Power and Transnational Resources: An Anthropological Perspective on Rural Rehabilitation in Afghanistan, by Alessandro Monsutti, UCLA Programon Central Asia Working Paper no. 2 (2009).

(310) 825-0007

Sponsor(s): Asia Pacific Center, Center for India and South Asia, Program on Central Asia