Afghanistan is a key region in and from which scholars can reflect on the potentials and challenges of anthropology. Structured chronologically and analytically, this review analyzes the persistence up to present day of the colonial image of an inward-looking society without, however, equating the current interplay of states and nonstate actors to the international context of the nineteenth century or the Cold War. The 1960s and 1970s were a productive period for research on the country focusing on pastoral nomadism, ethnicity, state, and tribe. When the opportunity for long-term fieldwork in Afghanistan was temporary interrupted in the 1980s with the Soviet occupation, anthropologists were forced to shift focus. Many worked among Afghan refugees in Pakistan as well as on the diaspora, including on the transnational networks of migrants. The international intervention in late 2001 incited an academic scramble for Afghanistan. The article reflects on the deontological challenges of research in an environment characterized by the demand for immediate policy-relevant knowledge while arguing that the study of the overlapping sovereignties linked to the interplay of international and nongovernmental organizations with the state and military forces in Afghanistan contribute to larger current debates in anthropology.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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