I’d like your recommendations for historically informed critical books on contemporary Afghanistan, ideally written by Afghanis. My knowledge is piecemeal at best.
Book mentions in this thread
by Alla IvanchikovaImagining Afghanistan examines how Afghanistan has been imagined in literary and visual texts that were published after the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent U.S.-led invasion—the era that propelled Afghanistan into the center of global media visibility. Through an analysis of fiction, graphic novels, memoirs, drama, and film, the book demonstrates that writing and screening “Afghanistan” has become a conduit for understanding our shared post-9/11 condition. “Afghanistan” serves as a lens through which contemporary cultural producers contend with the moral ambiguities of twenty-first-century humanitarianism, interpret the legacy of the Cold War, debate the role of the U.S. in the rise of transnational terror, and grapple with the long-term impact of war on both human and nonhuman ecologies. Post-9/11 global Afghanistan literary production remains largely NATO-centric insofar as it is marked by an uncritical investment in humanitarianism as an approach to Third World suffering and in anti-communism as an unquestioned premise. The book’s first half exposes how persisting anti-socialist biases—including anti-statist bias—not only shaped recent literary and visual texts on Afghanistan, resulting in a distorted portrayal of its tragic history, but also informed these texts’ reception by critics. In the book’s second half, the author examines cultural texts that challenge this limited horizon and forge alternative ways of representing traumatic histories. Captured by the author through the concepts of deep time, nonhuman witness, and war as a multispecies ecology, these new aesthetics bring readers a sophisticated portrait of Afghanistan as a rich multispecies habitat affected in dramatic ways by decades of war but not annihilated.
Games without Rules
by Tamim AnsaryBy the author of Destiny Disrupted: An enlightening, lively, accessible, history of Afghanistan from 1840 to today, from the Afghan point of view, that illuminates how Great Power conflicts have interrupted an ongoing, internal struggle to take form as a nation. Five times in the last two centuries, some great power has tried to invade, occupy, or otherwise take control of Afghanistan. And as Tamim Ansary shows in this illuminating history, every intervention has come to grief in much the same way and for much the same reason: The intervening power has failed to understand that Afghanistan has a story of its own, a story that continues to unfold between, and despite, the interventions. Games without Rules tells this story from the inside looking out. Drawing on his Afghan background, Muslim roots, and Western and Afghan sources, Ansary weaves an epic that moves from a universe of village republics--the old Afghanistan--through a tumultuous drama of tribes, factions, and forces, to the current struggle. Ansary paints a richly textured portrait of a nation that began to form around the same time as the United States but is still struggling to coalesce; a nation driven by its high ambitions but undermined by its own demons, while every forty to sixty years a great power crashes in and disrupts whatever progress has been made. A compelling narrative told in an accessible, conversational style, Games without Rules offers revelatory insight into a country long at the center of international debate, but never fully understood by the outside world.
No Good Men Among the Living
by Anand GopalTold through the lives of three Afghans, the stunning tale of how the United States had triumph in sight in Afghanistan—and then brought the Taliban back from the dead In a breathtaking chronicle, acclaimed journalist Anand Gopal traces in vivid detail the lives of three Afghans caught in America's war on terror. He follows a Taliban commander, who rises from scrawny teenager to leading insurgent; a US-backed warlord, who uses the American military to gain personal wealth and power; and a village housewife trapped between the two sides, who discovers the devastating cost of neutrality. Through their dramatic stories, Gopal shows that the Afghan war, so often regarded as a hopeless quagmire, could in fact have gone very differently. Top Taliban leaders actually tried to surrender within months of the US invasion, renouncing all political activity and submitting to the new government. Effectively, the Taliban ceased to exist—yet the Americans were unwilling to accept such a turnaround. Instead, driven by false intelligence from their allies and an unyielding mandate to fight terrorism, American forces continued to press the conflict, resurrecting the insurgency that persists to this day. With its intimate accounts of life in war-torn Afghanistan, Gopal's thoroughly original reporting lays bare the workings of America's longest war and the truth behind its prolonged agony. A heartbreaking story of mistakes and misdeeds, No Good Men Among the Living challenges our usual perceptions of the Afghan conflict, its victims, and its supposed winners.
by Fariba NawaAfghan-American journalist Fariba Nawa delivers a revealing and deeply personal explorationof Afghanistan and the drug trade which rules the country, from corruptofficials to warlords and child brides and beyond. KhaledHosseini, author of The Kite Runner and AThousand Splendid Suns calls Opium Nation “an insightful andinformative look at the global challenge of Afghan drug trade. Fariba Nawa weaves her personalstory of reconnecting with her homeland after 9/11 with a very engagingnarrative that chronicles Afghanistan’s dangerous descent into opiumtrafficking…and most revealingly, how the drug trade has damaged the lives ofordinary Afghan people.” Readers of Gayle Lemmon Tzemach’sThe Dressmaker of Khair Khanaand Rory Stewart’s The Places Between will find Nawa’spersonal, piercing, journalistic tale to be an indispensable addition to thecultural criticism covering this dire global crisis.
Blood Washing Blood
by Phil HaltonA clear-eyed view of the conflict in Afghanistan and its century-deep roots. The war in Afghanistan has consumed vast amounts of blood and treasure, causing the Western powers to seek an exit without achieving victory. The seemingly never-ending conflict has become synonymous with a number of issues — global jihad, rampant tribalism, and the narcotics trade — but despite being cited as causes of the conflict, they are in fact symptoms. Rather than beginning after 9/11, or with the Soviet “invasion” in 1979, the current conflict in Afghanistan began with the social reforms imposed by Amanullah Amir in 1919. Western powers have failed to recognize that legitimate grievances dating back as long ago as that are driving the local population to turn to insurgency in Afghanistan. The issues they are willing to fight over today — secularism, modernity, and centralized power — are not new ones; in fact, they have been the source of a hundred-year-long social conflict. The first step toward achieving a “solution” to the Afghanistan “problem” is to have a clear-eyed view of what is really driving it.
by Jonathan L. LeeLocated at the intersection of Asia and the Middle East, Afghanistan has been strategically important for thousands of years. Its ancient routes and strategic position between India, Inner Asia, China, Persia, and beyond has meant the region has been subject to frequent invasions, both peaceful and military. As a result, modern Afghanistan is a culturally and ethnically diverse country, but one divided by conflict, political instability, and by mass displacements of its people. In this magisterial illustrated history, Jonathan L. Lee tells the story of how a small tribal confederacy in a politically and culturally significant but volatile region became a modern nation state. Drawing on more than forty years of study, Lee places the current conflict in Afghanistan in its historical context and challenges many of the West’s preconceived ideas about the country. Focusing particularly on the powerful Durrani monarchy, which united the country in 1747 and ruled for nearly two and a half centuries, Lee chronicles the origins of the dynasty as clients of Safavid Persia and Mughal India: the reign of each ruler and their efforts to balance tribal, ethnic, regional, and religious factions; the struggle for social and constitutional reform; and the rise of Islamic and Communist factions. Along the way he offers new cultural and political insights from Persian histories, the memoirs of Afghan government officials, British government and India Office archives, and recently released CIA reports and Wikileaks documents. He also sheds new light on the country’s foreign relations, its internal power struggles, and the impact of foreign military interventions such as the “War on Terror.”
The Favored Daughter
by Fawzia KoofiThe nineteenth daughter of a local village leader in rural Afghanistan, Fawzia Koofi was left to die in the sun after birth by her mother. But she survived, and perseverance in the face of extreme hardship has defined her life ever since. Despite the abuse of her family, the exploitative Russian and Taliban regimes, the murders of her father, brother, and husband, and numerous attempts on her life, she rose to become the first Afghani woman Parliament speaker. Here, she shares her amazing story, punctuated by a series of poignant letters she wrote to her two daughters before each political trip—letters describing the future and freedoms she dreamed of for them and for all the women of Afghanistan. Koofi's New York Times bestseller, The Favored Daughter, movingly captures the political and cultural moment in Afghanistan, a country caught between the hope of progress and the bitter truth of history.