Posted by: Christian | September 3, 2007

Writing about Afghanistan before it was cool to write about Afghanistan

September 4, 2007.

A couple of my Afghan friends who are here at my university learning English (at a high level) and taking courses asked me to recommend articles. Of course, I underestimated them and started to find them some articles from the New York Times, The Economist, etc… The said, very politely, that they had already read articles like these and they wanted to “read what I read.” So of course I played the ethnic card and downloaded this article from our library system for them:

Canfield, Robert L. (2004). New Trends among Hazaras: From “The Amity of Wolves” to “The Practice of Brotherhood.” Iranian Studies, Volume 37, Number 2: pages 241-262.

They were quite surprised: “Someone who is not Hazara is writing about Hazaras? Who is he? Has he written anything else?” Above all, they seemed quite pleased about the whole thing. My one friend had an ear-to-ear grin. I had to assure them that, no, Robert Canfield did not just start to write about Afghanistan after 9-11. I told them that Dr. Canfield, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, started probably in the early 1970s, long before it was fashionable to write about Afghanistan.

Pic: Robert L. Canfield; writing about Afghanistan I assume.

Robert L Canfield

We even found his earliest published article about the Hazaras:

Canfield, Robert L. (1971). Hazara Integration in the Afghan Nation. Occasional Paper Number 3. The Afghanistan Committee of the Asia Society. New York.

A quick check of Professor Canfield’s publications and his profile showed that I was off by about 20 years. In fact he was in Afghanistan in the early 1950s. I’ll let you do the math on that. Apparently, Professor Canfield spent 9 years in Afghanistan in total. I should probably catch up to him by about the year 2062.

My friends had only been aware of the work on Hazaras by Sayed Askar Mousavi. So I took to them to my website and showed them the Hazara section part of my “ethnic group” bibliography pdf file:


Monsutti, Alessandro. 2005. War and Migration: Social Networks and Economic Strategies of the Hazaras of Afghanistan. Translated by Patrick Camiller. New York: Routledge.

Mousavi, Sayed Askar. 1997. The Hazaras of Afghanistan: An Historical, Cultural, Economic, and Political Study. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Poladi, Hassan. 1989. The Hazaras. Stockton, CA: Mughal Publishing.

Articles, Reports and Book Chapters

Bindemann, Rolf. 2002. ‘Hazara research and Hazara nationalism 1978-89’ in Afghanistan – a Country Without a State? Christine Noelle-Karimi, Conrad Schetter, Reinhard Schlagintweit (editors). Frankfurt am Main: IKO, pages 77-85.

Canfield, Robert L. 2004. ‘New trends among the Hazaras: from “the amity of the wolves” to “the practice of brotherhood”’, Iranian Studies, 37(2), pages 241-262.

Canfield, Robert L. 1978. ‘Hazara’, in Richard V. Weeks (editor), Muslim Peoples: A World Ethnographic Survey. Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press.

Canfield, Robert L. 1972. Hazara Integration into the Afghan Nation: Some Changing Relations Between the Hazaras and Afghan Officials. New York: Asia Society, Occasional Paper No. 3.

Emadi, Hafizullah. 1997. ‘The Hazaras and their role in the political transformation in Afghanistan’, Central Asian Survey, 16(3), pages 363-387.

Harpviken, Kristian Berg. 1998. ‘The Hazaras of Afghanistan: an historical, cultural, economic, and political study’, Central Asian Survey, 17(3).

Human Rights Watch. 2001. ‘Massacres of Hazaras in Afghanistan’, Human Rights Watch Report, Vol. 13, No. 1(C). Available on line at:

Ibrahimi, Niamatullah. 2006. ‘The Failure of a Clerical Proto-State: Hazarajat, 1979-84’, Crisis States Research Centre, Working paper No. 6 (Series 2). September, 2006. Available online at:

Monsutti, Alessandro. 2004. ‘Cooperation, remittances, and kinship among the Hazaras’, Iranian Studies, 37(2), pages 219-240.

Uhrig, R. 1999. ‘Die Ethnie der Hazara in Afghanistan’, Internationales Asienforum, 30(i-ii) (1999), pages 27-46.

Theses and Dissertations

Sarabi, Humayun. 2006. Politics and Modern History of Hazara Sectarian Politics in Afghanistan. MA Thesis, Tufts University. Available online at:

What I’m getting at is that there are some great scholarly writings on Afghanistan out there. Unfortunately for the people of Afghanistan, they are in English and are extremely difficult to access. Perhaps there could be a remedy for this in the future. Personally, I would love to see many of the essential writings translated into Dari and Pashto. Or, at the very least, see many Afghan students learn English and be able to download or check these writings out from a library in their hometown.

Anyways, that’s quite enough barely connectable rambling. By the way, check out Professor Canfield’s blog, Vital Concerns for the World. It covers subjects other than Afghanistan. So I recommend for you Afghanistanophiles to start with these blog entries:

Added later: Dr. Canfield adds to these sources.

[Added later: These additional bibilographical sources were emailed to me by a reader. Thanks!]

Bindemann, Rolf. 1987. Religion und Politik bei den schi’itischen Hazâra in Afghanistan, Iran und Pakistan. Berlin: Verlag Das Arabische Buch.

Dulling, G. K. 1973. The Hazaragi Dialect of Afghan Persian: A Preliminary Study. London: Central Asian Research Centre.

Ferdinand, Klaus. 1959. Preliminary Notes on Hazara Culture: The Danish Scientific Mission to Afghanistan, 1953-55. Copenhagen: E. Munksgaard.

Grevemeyer, Jan-Heeren. 1985. Ethnizität und Nationalismus : die afghanischen Hazaras zwischen Emanzipation, Widerstand gegen die sowjetischen Besatzer und Bürgerkrieg Berlin: Verlag Das Arabische Buch.

Razaiat, Hussain, and Fr. Tony Pearson. 2002 “The Hazara People of Afghanistan: A Century of Persecution”, online at:

Watson H. D (ed.). 1907. Gazetteer of the Hazara district, 1907. London : Chatto & Windus, 1908.


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