Seeking stability in Afghanistan

AIAS and RANA university hosted a presentation by Dr. Thomas Barfield on 15 August, 2016. The presentation was entitled ” seeking stability in Afghanistan”.

The 2004 Afghan constitution creates a highly centralized government in a land that is characterized by its diversity. One aspect of this diversity is the wide number of qawms (tribal or ethnic groups) by which people identifies themselves. While it has been argued that only a highly centralized government can prevent disorder from arising because of these divisions, in fact it may create more problems than it solves. This lecture will focus on how a more decentralized system of government may well be more stable because it would allow for a broader base of participation in governance. It will also focus attention upon the fact that although Afghanistan has ethnic divisions, it has never developed varieties of ethnic nationalism that seek to break up the state.

Dr. Thomas Barfield’s current research focuses on problems of political development in Afghanistan, particularly on systems of local governance and dispute resolution. He has also published extensively on contemporary and historic nomadic pastoral societies in Eurasia with a particular emphasis on politics and economy.

Dr. Barfield conducted ethnographic fieldwork in northern Afghanistan in the mid-1970s as well as shorter periods of research in Xinjiang, China, and post-Soviet Uzbekistan. He is author of The Central Asian Arabs of Afghanistan (1981), The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China (1989), and The Nomadic Alternative (1993), co-author of Afghanistan: An Atlas of Indigenous Domestic Architecture (1991), and editor of Blackwell’s Dictionary of Anthropology (1997). Barfield received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006 that led to the publication of his newest book, Afghanistan: A Political and Cultural History. He is also chairman of anthropology department of Boston University and president of the American Institute for Afghanistan Studies.

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