Afghanistan Annual Lecture Series

The American Institute of Afghanistan Studies launched the inaugural Annual Lecture on Afghanistan in April of 2017. One of the few female combat journalists to cover Afghanistan and Pakistan, Christina Lamb spoke about the human costs of political failure in America’s longest war in her presentation titled, “From Afghanistan to a More Dangerous World.” She draws on her experience as the Chief Foreign Correspondent for the UK Sunday Times and a best-selling author, to depict the impacts of war on Afghanistan’s people and society.

Afghanistan’s Traditional Arts After Years of Conflict

Please join us on Wednesday, October 19th at 5:30 pm for a lecture regarding “Afghanistan’s Traditional Arts After Years of Conflict” presented by Professor Ann W. Norton of Providence College. The lecture will be held at 725 Commonwealth Ave, room 303A with a reception to follow.


Mountstuart Elphinstone and the Historical Foundations of Afghanistan Studies

The AIAS co-sponsored program “Mountstuart Elphinstone and the Historical Foundations of Afghanistan Studies: Reframing Colonial Knowledge of the Indo-Persian World in the Post-Colonial Era” examined the intellectual legacy of Mountstuart Elphinstone (1779-1859) whose career as a diplomat, administrator and scholar left a substantial and lasting impact on colonial fields of knowledge and governance in Afghanistan and British India. Elphinstone’s seminal Account of the Kingdom of Caubul (1815) established the framework for knowing and engaging Afghanistan, and his influential History of India (1841) built upon significant and highly transformative administrative tenures in Poona/Pune and Bombay/Mumbai.

The conference took place at SOAS, University of London, from November 6-7, 2015, and included a key-note address given by William Dalrymple, based upon research for his book Return of a King (2012).

Part II of the Elphinstone Conference series will take place at Elphinstone College in Mumbai, India in April 2017.

Afghanistan 2015: Transitions to Transformations

AIAS hosted an international conference with the Hollings Center for International Dialogue, “Afghanistan 2015: Transitions to Transformations” to discuss the demographic, institutional, and structural changes taking place within the country. The conference took place in Istanbul, Turkey from August 5 to 9, 2015 and brought together a diverse group of Afghans, Americans and other nationals from various disciplines, including policy practitioners, academics, journalists, and civil society representatives. Participants followed Chatham House rules to allow for an open and candid discussion. Session topics spanned cultural identity, generational changes and challenges, urbanization, international politics, economic policies, and governance and elections. The conference concluded with breakout sessions in which participants brainstormed areas for practical implementation of the ideas expressed.

View the conference report here: AFG-2015-Snapshot-FINAL-12-3-15



How does the context of war effect the method? Qualitative research in/on armed conflicts


A lecture by

Teresa Koloma Beck PhD

Tuesday May 12

5:00 pm 


The lecture will discuss the main challenges for social science research in/on violent conflict and its implications for developing methodological approaches. Scientific knowledge is supposed to be produced through systematic and controlled processes of data gathering and analysis. Drawing on experiences from ethnographic research on everyday life in war and postwar societies undertaken in Angola and Mozambique, the lecture will discuss how this ideal is practically challenged in contexts influenced by violence and conflict.


Teresa Koloma Beck holds a PhD in social sciences and is currently heading the research group »Violence and Social Spaces« at the Centre Marc Bloch at Humboldt University Berlin. Prior to that she worked as a substitute professor for International Conflict Management at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at Erfurt University, Germany, as well as in interdisciplinary research projects on civil war and post-civil war societies. Her research focuses on the everyday dynamics of violence and conflict in a globalised world. She has conducted extensive field research in Angola and Mozambique. Among her publications are The normality of civil war (Campus, 2012) and Transitional Justice Theories (2014, Routledge, co-edited with S. Buckley-Zistel, C. Braun and F. Mieth).


From Sufis to Taliban: Trajectories of Islam in Afghanistan

From October 30 to October 31, 2014 AIAS co-sponsored a conference hosted by UCLA’s Program on Central Asia, called “From Sufis to Taliban: Trajectories of Islam in Afghanistan.”

Providing idioms and organizations for both anti-state and anti-foreign mobilization, Islam has proven to be a vital socio-political resource in modern Afghanistan. Even as it has been deployed as the national cement of a multi-ethnic “Emirate” and then “Islamic Republic,” Islam has been no less a destabilizing force in Afghan society. Despite the universal scholarly recognition of the centrality of Islam to modern Afghan history, its developmental trajectories have received relatively little sustained attention outside monographs and essays devoted to particular moments or movements. This conference brought together specialists on the different historical periods, regions and languages of Afghanistan to develop a more comprehensive, comparative and developmental picture of Afghan Islam from the nineteenth century to the present and to see beyond the unifying rhetoric of Islam into its disparate forms.

To learn more about the conference and view the list of participants, please visit the conference page.

Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History (Video)

The American Institute of Afghanistan Studies was pleased to host this public lecture with Professor Thomas Barfield.

“Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History”
Wednesday, March 2, 2011, 5:00 – 8:30 pm
Boston University
The Castle, 225 Bay State Road, Boston MA

Cosponsored by the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations  and the Boston University Center for the Study of Asia.



Students in the Field

Callahan teaching English

Two American graduate students, both Boston University anthropologists, have recently begun working in Afghanistan. Ted Callahan serves as a consultant with the Central Asian Institute in the remote Pamirs of northeastern Badakhshan province. His main interests concern a remnant population of Kirghiz pastoralists, perhaps the most geographically isolated and culturally traditional group of Turkic people anywhere. While staying at the AIAS Center in Kabul this past June, Callahan made contact with a Pamir Kirghiz delegation that had come to meet President Karzai. AIAS hosted a restaurant dinner for Callahan, the Kirghiz, and Badakhshan government officials.

Coburn at Istalef

Noah Coburn is interested in the history and market economy of Istalef, a pottery making village the Shomali plain north of Kabul. Like Callahan, he began his Afghan tenure as a resident of the AIAS Center. Now a representative of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, led by author and former British diplomat Rory Stewart, Coburn will both participate in and observe the revitalization of a local industry destroyed by the Taliban. While awaiting accommodations in Istalef, Coburn and his wife currently live in a reconstructed 19th century fortress overlooking Kabul.


Coburn at Istalef

Callahan, Azoy and Kirghiz at AIAS

Meeting of Afghan Archaeologists

Dr. Mark Kenoyer, director of the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS) visited AIAS on August 18th. He was in Afghanistan working on archeological site near the Aynak Copper Mine. AIAS organized a meeting of local archeologists at the Institute and assisted in facilitating this trip. 

Iftar Dinner for University Lecturers

In coordination with the Ministry of Higher Education, AIAS hosted group of 28 professors from Kabul and Nangarhar Universities who were invited by the ministry for training workshops on curriculum. AIAS organized an Iftar (dinner during Ramazan). The purpose of this program was to strengthen the institute’s relationship with academic institutions in the provinces and build a network of Afghan scholars in the provinces who can support the institute’s visiting scholars in their research projects.