2014 Fellowship Recipients

Shah Mahmoud Hanifi (James Madison University) 'Visualizing Afghanistan through Maps, Photographs and the Lens of Orientalism'

This research will be conducted in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room at the British Library, where Dr. Hanifi will continue his reading of archival records related to the map produced by Lieutenant James Macartney in the context of the 1808-09 diplomatic embassy to the Kingdom of Kabul led by Mountstuart Elphinstone. The  British Library’s vast photographic archive will be accessed to study nineteenth and early twentieth century Afghanistan. The results of the nineteenth-century photographic research in the Burke and Baker collections will be incorporated into an article on the history of photography that will also address the twentieth century. The research into Macartney’s map of Kabul will be presented in a two-day international conference at the British Library and the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies in the fall of 2015.

Shivan Mahendrarajah (University of Cambridge), 'A History of Herat under the Kart Dynasty: Survival and Revival in Mongol Persia'

This project will explore regional identities, politics, and religious interpretations of Harat region. While many scholars have favored writing “national” dynastic histories, the “local” histories have been greatly ignored. This contradicts the fact that a “national” identity has not yet been established in Afghanistan. Therefore, Dr. Mahendrarajah will fill a niche in the historical literature of Medieval Persia, and will explain how the Karts initiated an agricultural revival following the destruction of agriculture and irrigation by the Mongols; how the Karts protected Harat’s borders, pastures, and farmlands from Mongol nomads immigrating from across the Oxus seeking “living space”; and how this staunchly Sunni dynasty preserved Islam following the murder of the caliph and the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258. Through fresh primary sources and the reinterpretation of existing sources, this study will produce a local history of an important Islamic society.

Senzil Nawid (University of Arizona), 'The King’s Physician: Lillias Hamilton in the Court of the King of Afghanistan, 1893-1896'

This study will examine the writings of Lillias Hamilton, a British woman doctor, who traveled to Afghanistan in the late 19th century. She served as a medical advisor to Amir Abd al- Rahman, who ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist in the face of enormous challenges posed by internal unrest and rivalry between two imperial powers over his kingdom. Hamilton gives singular insights into harem and domestic life in late nineteenth century Afghanistan, which are not found elsewhere. Hamilton relates important information about the structure of the harem, the life of the upper- class Afghan women, the situation of the slave girls, the furnishings of the royal women’s quarters, and the fashion of the women of the period, which are not found elsewhere. Analysis of Hamilton’s observations of the harems of Kabul, particularly the royal harem, will advance understanding of the social history of Afghanistan in the 19th century and the history of Afghan women. This study of the writings of Hamilton, the only 19th century English woman traveler to Afghanistan will fill a gap in the literature on Victorian women travelers.

Timothy Nunan (Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies), 'NGOs and Humanitarianism in Soviet-Occupied and Communist Afghanistan, c. 1980s-1992'

This fellowship will support archival research in the Afghanistan-related holdings of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) and the Svenska Afganistankomitten (SAK) in July 2014. This proposed research trip is essential for a book manuscript on the history of international development in Afghanistan during the Cold War. The book, Humanitarian Invasion, constitutes the first archivally-based monograph-length study of development in Afghanistan.1 It shows how Afghanistan, once a hothouse for Soviet, American, and West German visions of national development, later became a petri dish for Soviet administration, government-by-NGO, and, finally, Pakistani suzerainty. The book uses materials from Soviet, German, American, British, and UN archives, and interviews with dozens of former Soviet advisers and translators to situate the history of Afghanistan into the historiography of development.

Fatima Mojadeddi (Columbia University), 'The Afghan Underground: War, Economy, and Culture in Kabul'

Mojadeddi’s dissertation examines the socio-cultural ramifications of the Afghan-American War and Afghanistan’s integration into an international war economy that demands a commodification of land, language and culture alongside a devastating counterinsurgency. In Kabul a massive green zone economy and the beginnings of a mineral mining industry have further fragmented a social and cultural landscape already marked by the twin processes of war and ethnic/linguistic fragmentation. The draw-down of a militarized “Green Zone” economy, precipitated by the possible withdrawal of all troops in December 2014, has meant widespread unemployment for Afghans employed with the U.S military/NATO as linguistic-cultural translators, or as service sector employees on military bases. In some cases, this resulted in their absorption by the Taliban as well paid suicide bombers or, in others, by multi-national mining companies as manual laborers. Ms. Mojadeddi will examine these disparate worlds of employment, taking each as a site in which the ideologies of capitalism and counterinsurgency encounter an alternative symbolic and cultural order, namely that of ethno-linguistic nativism.

Travel Fellowships

James Bradford (Berklee College of Music), 'Drug Control in Afghanistan: A History of the Politics of Opium'

Dr. Bradford will explore how the opium trade has continued to persist and thrive in Afghanistan, despite the injection of hundreds of thousands of troops and billions of dollars within the last decade. This critical question underscores the need to better understand how opium has been affected by the historical impact of state formation in Afghanistan. Despite the Afghan state’s underlying aim to create a licit opium economy, the international community, especially the United States, pushed Afghanistan to implement strict regulations that both failed and proved divisive among the Afghan population. The study will examine how economic and social policies tie to rural development and drug control, and the resistance to it, reflected as well as reinforced deeper political, social, and cultural tensions between the Afghan state and society.

Abolfazl Sotoudeh (Boston College), 'Strangers Here, Strangers There?: How Afghan Expatriates are Received Back in Afghanistan'

Afghanistan is one of the most neglected parts of the world regarding migration research, while ranking among the top three migrant-sending countries over the last three decades. Nonetheless, there has ironically been virtually no study of the migration flow inward; namely, how Afghan expatriates who have chosen to go back to Afghanistan are impacted and to what extent they’ve managed to get (re)integrated in Afghan society. This study will examine how former Afghan migrants -who once lived in Iran- have taken to adapt to the quasi- new environment and the obstacles they face while trying to access social networks, find spouses/partners, enjoy educational facilities and get employment promotions. A racially, religiously, linguistically and politically divided society, Afghan returnees may face a previously known but presently unfamiliar atmosphere which stigmatizes them as Iranianized. This project investigates the mechanisms through which these Afghan returnees are othered, excluded, oppressed or denied access to resources they would have had enjoyed otherwise.