2013 Fellowship Recipients

George Malagaris (Independent Scholar), 'Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna and the Cultural Politics of Reception.'

This project contributes to a new understanding of medieval Afghanistan and its interpretation. It examines the cultural politics of reception of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna in a variety of languages, literary genres, and artistic media, from the medieval Islamic world, as well as in early modern Europe and in modern international interpretations. Based in India, it will concentrate on unpublished materials and recent scholarship, and will be pursued primarily in Delhi, Aligarh, Patna, and Rampur. The objective is to enrich our understanding of cultural and political aspects of the Islamic world and Asia from a perspective centered on Afghanistan. Thus, an historical style of ruler-ship and reception will be revealed in the wider region, which appears to have influence on contemporary affairs in Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia, and South Asia even in our own day.

Rachel Lehr (University of Chicago), 'Pashai Language in the Afghan Diaspora.'

Pashais are one of Afghanistan’s smallest minorities; they have received little attention compared to their neighbors. Until recently, Pashai was an unwritten language; even with the current efforts by the ministry of Education and NGOs, interest in Pashai literacy is minimal. The number of Pashai speakers is unknown, estimating from 50,000 to 100,000. In her research, Lehr will study the language practices of two Pashai speaking communities in the Afghan diaspora. She will look at the role gender and notions of identity play in the preservation of the Pashai language by speakers within the larger Afghan immigrant communities and their host countries. The two Afghan immigrant communities in this study are located in London, UK and Calgary, Canada. The study will examine these two receiving countries, and how their different policies of asylum and integration intersect with gender relations and language preservation. The study will also address how patterns of language switching, integration and education policies, and the necessity to learn the host country’s language, affect both refugee integration and Pashao ethno-linguistic and religious identity.

Robert Rakove (Stanford University), 'Lost Decades: The United States and Afghanistan, 1945-1979.'

Utilizing records in the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and India, Rakove will study the relationship between the United States and Afghanistan during the early and middle Cold War years. While we have a wealth of scholarship on the Cold War in Afghanistan from the late 1970s onward, the pre-Saur period remains remarkably obscure. The project will examine Afghanistan’s place in the Cold War from the conflict’s inception to the fall of Daoud. Revising the general thesis of American disinterest in Afghanistan, Rakove will look at the ways by which the kingdom’s development was shaped by often-sudden shifts in U.S. policy. Close study of the U.S.-Afghan relationship in this era promises to shed light on the impact of U.S. development aid, the Afghan-Pakistan conflict, and the ways by which Afghanistan was perceived by the Cold War combatants.

Travel Fellowships

Felisa Dyrud (University of Arizona), 'Violence and Voice: Activism versus Art in Post-Taliban Afghan Women's Poetry.'

The writings of female Afghan poets expose and grapple with the violent opposition they face as writers and women living in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Significant improvements in some aspects of Afghan social life nevertheless fall painfully short of providing women with basic human rights such as freedom from violence and freedom of expression. Ubiquitous motifs of violence and voice in the work of contemporary female Afghan poets reveal both their attempt to broadly express the oppression and frustrations of Afghan women and their intent to utilize poetry as a means of active resistance – confronting violence with voice and “fighting back” through words. This project explores whether it is true that, as former Afghan Parliamentarian Safia Saddiqi claimed, “In Afghanistan, poetry is the women’s movement from the inside.” That Afghan women writers are producing a body of creative work despite extraordinary obstacles is significant, following decades of war and extreme repression under the Taliban, but its content also suggests implications beyond the creative act. While Afghan women’s poetry may at some point transition to the luxurious stage of producing “art for art’s sake,” right now their work relays and participates in an active struggle for survival.

Suzanne Levi-Sanchez (Rutgers University), 'Politics at the Periphery of Afghanistan: Who Makes the Rules that Count at the Border?.'

While there is a rich literature on institutions, borders, and local leaders/organizations, there is a distinct paucity of analysis on the importance of both the context and role of local leaders and organizations to stability along borderlands and ultimately, how this context may impact the stability of the state. Sanchez’s prior fieldwork and dissertation research found that increasing border infrastructure and security has perverse effects on cross border cooperation on the border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan along the borderlands of Badakhshan. Specifically, the more the state formalized the border, the more the illicit networks cooperated. She will now research vital characteristics regarding these local leaders that remain unclear: who they are, how they are chosen, what gives them legitimacy, and how they contribute to or detract from state stability. Her study focuses on local leaders, their associated local organizations, and their impact on border and state stability along the border in Shughnan, Ishkasham, and the Wakhan Corridor, three districts in Badakhshan, Afghanistan.

Arian Mawj Sharifi (Tufts University), 'Strategic Choice of Violent and Non-Violent Tactics in Afghan Islamist Movements.'

Sharifi will study the choice of violence vs. non-violence in Afghan Islamist movements. Specifically, the main question he attempts to answer is: why do Afghan Islamist movements change from violent to nonviolent or vice versa? Alternately, under what conditions do Afghan Islamist groups deem violence an effective tool for pursuing their objectives, and in what circumstances do they perceive non-violent struggle more attractive? While the empirical part of the research is based on Afghan Islamist groups, he will draw some guidelines for understanding the broader body of Islamist movements in the world. Sharifi focuses on three Afghan Islamist movements, including the Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami-e-Hekmatyar, and Hezb-e-Itehad-e-Islami. Historical accounts of these groups are found in archives of newspapers and magazines, as well as books, which can be found in Dari, Pashto and Urdu at the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University, as well as in other libraries and private collections.