Posted by: Christian | June 19, 2008

Nuristani kids are hardcore because…

…they play hockey… the winter… the snow…..sans clothing.

Nuristan kids


You think this is fake? You don’t believe me? Here’s the photo credit:


When the Danish botanist and self-taught anthropologist Lennart Edelberg visited Nuristan in 1948-49, as part of the Third Danish Expedition to Central Asia, he came across these hardcore kids. In my opinion, hockey is best played in above freezing temperatures, fully clothed and with protective equipment to protect against swinging sticks. But then again, I’m no Nuristani.

This photo is part of the amazing book Nuristan by Lennart Edelberg and Schuyler Jones. You can’t buy the book but there are 85 copies listed in university libraries worldwide in Worldcat. This large format book is amazing. There are numerous photographs, B&W and color (some even full page). As a general ethnography it is quote informative [added: see comments below] and has the ability to pull you away from your chosen research (I would love to do Nuristan and the surrounding areas but I can’t imagine any university giving me permission to do fieldwork) and spend time randomly opening pages to read fascinating stuff.

And no, I have not heard any reports of contemporary naked hockey being played.

I’ll end this entry with a photo from Nuristan in the 1980s by Steve McCurry:


  1. The Edelberg & Jones volume has lots of nice pictures. The text in it is slapdash and the ethnography is unreliable to put a most charitable spin on it.

    The best disciplined ‘contemporary’ material on Nuristan is at Richard Strand’s site. Although trained as a linguist, he approached empirical ethnographic research with an unmatched degree of rigor. The Germans and Danes were ethnologists, not ethnographers. Their interest was in finding contemporary evidence of the human past. Jones’ main work “Men of Influence,” purports to be a serious ethnographic study, but he was hobbled by limited periods in the field (during breaks from his work at Kabul University) and from an inappropriate effort to fit the Nuristani social organization into a simplistic model of descent groups based on segementary opposition.

    Max Klimburg has also done (and is doing) tremendous work. His books are fabulous but cost a fortune. He has spent over three decades collecting and working up his material. His primary focus is on the Kafir religion and the material culture associated with it. While he integrates in ethnographic material it is done mainly to bring an added perspective to his main focus.

    Other ethnographic data are out there. Those who have it need to get off their rears and get it published.

  2. David,

    Thanks for the comments.

    I’ll see if I can get “Kafir to Afghan” on interlibrary loan. Or it might just have to wait until I visit UN-Omaha where there is a copy plus Yusuf Nuristani’s dissertation. Thankfully, Max Klimburg’s work is readily available in the university interlibrary loan system.

    Don’t tell my dissertation committee than I’m doing any reading outside my area of research.



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