The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan
” … a detailed ethnography that described the uniqueness of the circumstances in which the Kirghiz found themselves… fascinating … “–Times Literary Supplement, June 3 2005 “A carefully developed ethnography that will surely be appreciated as one of the finest on peoples in Central Asia.” — MESA Bulletin “Shahrani’s work is doubly significant: it is an account of a people that are now virtually inaccessible to anthropological enquiry; and it is a work by a local or native anthropologist.” — Journal of Asian StudiesA carefully developed ethnography that will surely be appreciated as one of the finest on peoples in Central Asia. — MESA Bulletin
An extended new preface and a new epilogue, written after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, place the Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan in the context of a vastly changed world. The original book, first published in 1979, describes the cultural and ecological adaptation of the nomadic Kirghiz and their agriculturalist neighbors, the Wakhi, to high altitudes and a frigid climate in the Wakhan Corridor, a panhandle of Afghanistan that borders Pakistan, the former Soviet Union, and the People’s Republic of China. The new Preface challenges the assumption that the root cause of terrorism is religious. Shahrani asserts that the problem of terrorism is fundamentally political and is historically linked to the inappropriate model of the centralized nation-state introduced to Afghanistan by colonial regimes. The differing responses of the Kirghiz and Wakhi to the Marxist coup are discussed in the new Epilogue. Shahrani has closely followed the flight of the Kirghiz to Pakistan in 1978 and their eventual resettlement among resentful Kurdish villagers in eastern Turkey in 1982. The ethnographic documentation and analysis of the transformation of Kirghiz society, politics, economics, and demography since their exodus from the Pamirs offers valuable lessons to our understanding of the dynamics and true resilience of small pastoral nomadic communities. M. Nazif Shahrani, an Afghan anthropologist, is chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Culture at Indiana University.