This article looks at three disparate travel texts—Robert Byron's classic 1937 travelogue The Road to Oxiana, Khaled Hosseini's massively popular 2003 novel The Kite Runner, and Michael Winterbottom's emotionally wrenching 2002 fauxdocumentary In This World—which deal, either directly or indirectly, with Afghanistan. It argues that the geographical coordinates of Afghanistan have recently been confused with the “War on Terror,” and that one of the most notable results of this has been the ideological assimilation of a Central Asian nation to the post–9/11-inspired imaginative geography of a “Greater Middle East.” The article seeks to account for this latter-day history of geographical misprision, but also for the triangulated relationship between travel, empire, and colonial modernity that underlies it—a relationship in which the US-dominated “colonial present” (Gregory 2004) maps onto the British imperial past.
Journeys in Afghanistan from Byron to Hosseini
Perspectives on the Economic Revitalization of Lower Manhattan
The 9/11 attacks claimed the lives of thousands of New Yorkers and also devastated the economy in Lower Manhattan. Many local businesses and restaurants were forced to close, and thousands of residents were displaced from their homes. For more than a decade, the neighborhoods surrounding the World Trade Center site struggled to stay afloat economically. However, recent years have witnessed the revitalization of this area as developers have built new office and retail spaces as well as museums and memorials that attract visitors from around the globe. Drawing from fieldwork conducted between 2010 and 2017, this article analyzes the significance of these rapid economic developments for individuals who were personally affected by the attacks. Some persons condemned the changes as immoral, believing that money and respectful remembrance cannot coexist. Others viewed the revitalization as redemptive, the product of the communitas that had united citizens after the tragedy.
Seriousness is achieved when a speaker effectively moves the audience according to his or her intentions. But seriousness is fragile and subject to countless vicissitudes, as illustrated in an encounter with the television evangelist Oral Roberts. I interrogate one of the means used to counter such vicissitudes-hyperbole. Hyperbole may include exaggeration and amplification of all kinds, and may be manifest in deeds as well as words. I first follow hyperbole through 9/11 and the competing ideologies of Salafi jihadists and the Bush administration to show how 'absolute metaphors' are enlisted hyperbolically. I examine too how epic narratives are created as a similar form of hyperbole. Finally, I show how sacredness, another allied form of hyperbole, is attributed to the Holocaust in present-day Germany. Throughout I argue, and illustrate, how anthropological writing is of necessity ironic, such that irony is better than 'cultural relativism' as an understanding of the anthropological enterprise.
Rethymno, Crete 9-11 December 2003
Oxford 15 November 2003 28 February 2004 19 June 2004
Perugia 13-14 May 2004
Some Critical Issues
William H. Thornton, Ya-chung Chuang, and Horng-luen Wang
In the wake of 9/11 and the 'war on terrorism,' doubts arose as to the staying power of the antiglobalist movement. Its future rested on a fragile "green and blue" alliance of environmental, labor and human rights activists—and on the general tide of public concern. The President's recording-breaking approval ratings after 9/11 reflect an adverse turning of that tide, not only among settled adults, but also the youth who comprise the bulk of every antiglobalist demonstration. Can this ostensibly Left movement maintain the momentum it achieved in Seattle, Prague, Quebec City, and Genoa? To what extent will moderate and civil antiglobalism fall under the shadow of terroristic antiglobalism?
Migration within, from and to the Middle East
Sabine Strasser and Shahnaz R. Nadjmabadi
During the last few decades, the range of key anthropological issues in the Middle East has changed remarkably. Along with relations between tribes and states, nomadism, kinship, ethnic and national conflicts, and tensions caused by oil and water, today’s post-9/11 effects and diversifying patterns of migration have increasingly attracted scholarly interest. Although they have entered the field of migration studies surprisingly late, social anthropologists have recently amplified their participation in this booming research area, particularly in transnational studies.
Publications, Films and Conferences
Mark Slobin, Joobin Bekhrad, Florian Volm, Farideh Pourgiv, Paul Fox, Weronika Kuta, and Birgit Reinel
Baily, John (2015), War, Exile and the Music of Afghanistan: The Ethnographer’s Tale and Sakata, Hiromi Lorraine (2013), Afghanistan Encounters with Music and Friends
Tasfiya, Tajikistan, by Sharofat Arabova, 2014
Die Neue (The New Girl), Germany, by Buket Alakus, 2015
International Conference on Central and West Asia and Diasporas: The Transnational and Transgenerational, 14–16 March 2015, Inaugural Central and West Asia and Diasporas Research Network (CWADRN) Conference, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Conference of Commission on Anthropology of the Middle East of the IUAES (International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences), 9–11 September 2015, Cracow, Poland
Intensive Transnationalism among Pakistanis in Denmark
Analyzing the period of 'intensive transnationalism' among Pakistani migrants in Denmark precipitated by the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, this article explores the relationship between events and effects on a global scale. One significant initiative after the disaster was the founding of an ad hoc association, Medical Doctors in Assistance to the Earthquake Victims in Pakistan, which consisted mainly of medical workers with a Pakistani background. The article discusses the wax and wane of this association and its impact in three interconnected contexts: family objectives, community dynamics, and national identity politics in Denmark. Despite the medical doctors' efforts and intentions, the outcome was framed by 9/11, which has become the major critical event of the decade—one that has supported a developing cleavage between the Danish majority and Denmark's Muslim immigrant minority.
Silence, Risk and Fear among Tourists and Nepalis during Nepal's Civil War
The conflict between the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the Nepalese state, from 1996 until 2006, resulted in thousands of "disappeared" and dead Nepalis, and, especially after 9/11, a sharp decline in tourism in Nepal. Yet the tourists who came had good journeys. Based on ethnographic research, this article explores how these two worlds—of tourism, and the darkness of war, variously experienced—coexisted in the winter of 2002 in the lakeside resort of Pokhara. The article describes how the culture of silence that emerged during the war permeated interactions between Nepalis and visitors, and that there are shades of darkness as well as shades of fear. Situations are not black and white and people's experiences are contingent on contexts and backgrounds that are diverse and complex. Complementing studies of dark tourism, that is tourism about darkness, this is a study of tourism in darkness.
Hubert Knoblauch, Grace Davie, Kim Knibbe, Manuel A. Vásquez, and José Casanova
José Casanova’s Public Religions in the Modern World (1994) has transformed the study of religion quite considerably. As I recall, the book was received relatively slowly in its first years. Casanova’s thesis gained momentum with the escalating focus on religion after 9/11 and the ensuing publicity for Huntington’s (1996) thesis of an imminent clash of civilizations. While many only then turned to the study of religion, Casanova had already prepared the ground for a global comparative approach with his path-breaking diagnosis of the state of religion in the different modes of modernity. The growing reception of Casanova’s thesis was accompanied by the increasing interest of political science (and politics in general) in religion. In fact, Casanova has shed new light specifically on the role of religion in politics. Furthermore, his thesis on ‘public religion’ has had profound impacts on the long-lasting debate on secularization in the humanities as well as in the public domain. In this respect, there is no doubt that Casanova has contributed a major, classic work to the social study of religion.