Nile Green (UCLA), 'Transnational Perspective on Early Twentieth Century Afghanistan: Urdu & Persian Source Materials.'
While the transnational dimensions of Afghanistan’s modernization between 1901 and 1933 have long been recognized with regard to Ottoman influences, Afghan interactions with Indian Muslim intellectuals and institutions remains little known. Part of the reason for this is that the source materials on this neglected dimension of Afghan modernity are in the ‘wrong’ language, being in Urdu rather than the notionally national languages of Persian and Pashto. In order to gauge the degree of Afghanistan’s interaction with this ‘Urdusphere’ of publishers and educational institutions, the project aims to locate new source materials in both Urdu and Persian which relate to the trans-border traffic in persons, books and technologies through which Afghan modernists engaged with Indian neighbors they conceived of as being Muslim friends as much as colonial enemies. Through research trips to library and archival collections, the project seeks to collect the various accounts of Afghan history, ethnography and commerce that were produced by the Urdusphere of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, as well as Persian texts printed in India related or in some cases exported to Afghanistan. In doing so, the project aims to not only contextualize the interaction with late Ottoman reformists into a larger pattern of transnational engagements, but also to locate sources on an early twentieth century period of pre-Taliban and modernist rather than traditionalist Afghan engagement with Indo-Pakistan.