July 2015


by M. Jamil Hanafi

[This is a paper that was originally published under the title of “Anthropology and the Representation of Recent Migrations from Afghanistan,” as it appeared in Rethinking Refuge and Displacement: Selected Papers on Refugees and Immigrants, Volume VIII, 2000. Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Association. Eds. E. M. Godziak and D. J. Shandy. Pp. 291-321. Given the intense interest in Afghanistan today, this article is made available on this site in the interest of wider accessibility. Copyright remains with the author.]

Abstract:
The April 1978 revolution in Afghanistan and the subsequent armed intervention in the country by the Soviet Union in December 1979 prompted millions of Afghans to migrate to Iran and Pakistan. About 200,000 of these migrants were resettled in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia. Thousands of others have moved to the Gulf States, India, Russia, and Turkey. This paper provides a critical analysis of selected writings by anthropologists regarding these Afghan migrants. With minor exceptions, these writings are passionately political, narrow in scope, anti-Russian, and designed to embarrass the USSR and the Revolutionary Government of Afghanistan. The author argues, however, that the vast majority of Afghans who left Afghanistan were economic migrants and suggests that the anthropological analysis of recent migrations from the country needs to be framed in historical processes, global capitalism, and the Cold-War competition between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Anthropologists often bemoan their perceived lack of impact on public policy and discourse. In the case of Afghanistan, as I will demonstrate, the opposite is true. Anthropologists are products of the ideological environments in which they live; the writings on recent migrations from Afghanistan by anthropologists are framed by passionate politicized discourse.

Ethnography can be seen as a means by which anthropology, or the systematic study and understanding of the human condition, is achieved.1 Ethnographic writings on Afghan migrants have tended to fall into two categories: macro-and micro-specialist writings. Both forms, I propose, are framed by political opposition to the Soviet Union and the post-1978 revolutionary government of Afghanistan. (more…)

The author of Candide knew that this was not the best of all possible worlds. But Voltaire has sound advice about the importance of tolerance, written over two and half centuries ago…

It does not require great art, or magnificently trained eloquence, to prove that Christians should tolerate each other. I, however, am going further: I say that we should regard all men as our brothers. What? The Turk my brother? The Chinaman my brother? The Jew? The Siam? Yes, without doubt; are we not all children of the same father and creatures of the same God?

But these people despise us; they treat us as idolaters! Very well! I will tell them that they are grievously wrong. It seems to me that I would at least astonish the proud, dogmatic Islam imam or Buddhist priest, if I spoke to them as follows:

“This little globe, which is but a point, rolls through space, as do many other globes; we are lost in the immensity of the universe. Man, only five feet high, is assuredly only a small thing in creation. One of these imperceptible beings says to another one of his neighbors, in Arabia or South Africa: ‘Listen to me, because God of all these worlds has enlightened me: there are nine hundred million little ants like us on the earth, but my ant-hole is the only one dear to God; all the other are cast off by Him for eternity; mine alone will be happy, and all the others will be eternally damned.”

(more…)

Welcome to the Abou Naddara Collection website!

This website offers the complete newspapers published by the Egyptian nationalist James Sanua (يعقوب صنوع, 1839-1912) from 1878 to 1910. In addition, formerly unpublished manuscripts by the same author, articles from newspapers of the period about the journalist and his oeuvre, as well as the decorations he received are also available. Most of the material was directly scanned from the originals published at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, and therefore contains an ample variety of magnificent and colorful lithographs.

It was financed by the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” of Heidelberg University and realized in a collaboration of Project B1 “Gauging Cultural Asymmetries: Asian Satire and the Search for Identity in the Era of Colonialism and Imperialism” and the Visual Resources Team of the Cluster’s Heidelberg Research Architecture.

In case you were wondering what kinds of books Bin Laden was reading, at least in his Pakistan compound before his demise, the U.S. Government has provided a list. This is at http://www.dni.gov/index.php/resources/bin-laden-bookshelf?start=3 Some 75 of over 400 items listed were publicly available U.S. Government reports; it seem he could have written a thesis in International Relations while in hiding. It is an odd collection, from current political accounts to the bizarre. I am sure that finding Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier will spring several new conspiracy theories. I just wonder how far Bin Laden read into a book of 624 pages…