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Elisabeth Yarbakhsh

Derrida’s hostipitalité formulation provides a framework through which we might begin to explore the relationship between Iranian citizen-hosts and Afghan refugee-guests in the city of Shiraz and the surrounding province. Notions of Iranian hospitality thread through multiple and diverse constructions of Iranian selfhood. Religion, poetry and history speak to what it means to be Iranian, marking out categories of Self and Other and, in doing so, exposing the limits of hospitality in the very spaces that the nation is most acutely felt.

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Follow the Afghan War

Methods, Interpretations, Imagination

Irene Kucera

Anthropological research in war-torn countries like Afghanistan is dangerous and therefore often impossible. There are various constraints, both general and specific, that often hinder an anthropologist from going out into the field. This is not a new problem for social anthropology, but it is increasingly preoccupying the discipline. Thus, a 'distance approach' needs to be developed for studying the ethnography of the Afghan war. This article proposes one methodological possibility for approaching the Afghan war from other perspectives. This method involves extensive reading in and analysis of various written works and the critical examination of web sites and other media, in combination with fieldwork in Europe and Central Asia. In order to demonstrate this approach, the discourse on women's rights will be discussed.

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Retours en Afghanistan

Un nouveau regard sur un terrain revisité

Pierre Centlivres and Micheline Centlivres-Demont

Returning to Afghanistan in 2002 and 2005, the authors revisit the places in the north of the country where they undertook research in the 1970s and observe the ruptures and the continuities in the society after 30 years of crisis and conflict. They comment also on their own changes of perspective brought about by the elapsed time and their return. Finally, they tackle the question of the return and reintegration of the refugees, as well as the concept of the village and the advent of new national and international actors on the Afghan scene.

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A Beginning, Two Ends, and a Thickened Middle

Journeys in Afghanistan from Byron to Hosseini

Graham Huggan

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.

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From Khariji to Kabuli

Being an 'Insider/Outsider' in an Afghan Woman's Fieldwork

Shaharzad Akbar

This article reflects on the challenges of being an 'outsider' in one's own culture and on the journey from being a complete outsider to an 'insider/outsider'. Reflecting on fieldwork among women in north-east Afghanistan, the article explores assumptions and perceptions about Badakhshan and its people and the role of fieldwork in shattering them. It is also a reflection about values and compromises and the researcher's struggle to negotiate the appropriate balance. The article sheds light on the researcher's search for and discovery of different versions of herself when faced with a different version of 'home'.

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‘We Are Both Diplomats and Traders’

Afghan Transregional Traders across the Former Soviet Union

Magnus Marsden

Building on fieldwork with Afghan traders in the former Soviet Union, this article uses the idea of diplomacy to explore the skills and capacities that are central to the traders’ self-understandings and working lives. Of central concern is the way in which the traders often identify themselves as being ‘diplomats’. The expressions of the traders’ diplomatic skills take various forms of everyday practice, as well as material form in choices of clothing and in the design of their offices. In exploring these different markers of being diplomatic in the context of the activities of a long-distance trade network, it is suggested that anthropology needs to attend not only to the possibilities of using diplomacy as an analytical device, but also as an emic category that invests the lives of particular communities with meaning and significance.

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Tactique de guerre, techniques du corps

Pour une lecture du fait guerrier en Afghanistan à partir d'images filmées

Agnès Devictor and Camille Perréand

Based on an analysis of films shot by Youssouf Janessar, the cameraman of the Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, this article presents a study of the Afghan wars between 1982 and 1992. It considers the act of filming in its anthropological meaning and the ethnographic dimension as translated by these images. The article first deals with the link between Massoud and recorded images and, more widely, his relationship with modern technology in combat. It then proposes an anthropological analysis of fighters based on a reading of these images, which record traces of behaviour, comportment and appearance - a repository of non-verbal communication between fighters - and which represent very rich material for the anthropological study of war.

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Reports

Publications, Films and Conferences

Shahla Haeri, Sophie Accolas and Babak Rezvani

PUBLICATIONS

Nadjmabadi, Shahnaz R. (ed.) (2009), Conceptualizing Iranian Anthropology: Past and Present Perspectives (Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books). viii + 278 pp. ISBN 978-1-84545-626-9.

FILMS

Kamal, Mariam Nabil (2009), Le Bruit des pas, Afghanistan, vidéo couleur, 24 minutes, Ateliers Varan, avec le soutien des Service culturel de l’Ambassade de France, du Centre culturel français, du Goethe Institut et la Direction des Relations Internationales d’Arte France, en partenariat avec Afghan films, la Faculté des Beaux Arts, Kabul University, Radio Television Afghanistan, the Foundation for Culture and Civil Society.

CONFERENCES

‘Central Eurasia: Islam, Culture and Conflict’, May 2010, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Atta ur Rehman Sheikh

Afghan society represents a wide spectrum of tribal and ethnic groups with generally strong patriarchal norms. Given this patriarchal structure, coupled with the predominant tribal value system, the honour of a tribe is closely attributed to its women, and the protection of women by secluding them is thus a continued practice and norm. The division of public and private spheres is strictly adhered to as a means to maintain and preserve the honour of the family or tribe. The forced migration of Afghans has resulted in drastic changes in Afghan women’s lives and produced tensions in the tribal and social structure. Due to the absence of customary social support networks, material difficulties and cases of shattered families have become worse, and women’s mobility and freedom have been even further curtailed. At the same time, the refugee situation, extending over two decades, has brought about several changes in terms of attitudes towards health, hygiene, literacy, education, skill training and customs, due to the developmental work of various relief agencies.

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Introduction

An Overview of the Contemporary Ethnography of Afghanistan

Zuzanna Olszewska

This special issue represents the first collection of ethnographic articles specifically about post-2001 Afghanistan, opening a new chapter in the history of the country’s ethnography. Long and multifaceted, that history deserves a thorough compilation and bibliography beyond what can be undertaken in this brief editorial. The promising current of anthropological research in Afghanistan in the 1960s and 1970s was diverted by over 30 years of political turmoil, invasion, resistance and civil war, during which many anthropologists either continued or began their work in the refugee communities of Pakistan and Iran or in Afghan diasporic populations around the world.