restricted access Globalizing Afghanistan: Terrorism, War, and the Rhetoric of Nation Building (review)
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Reviewed by
Jalalzai, Zubeda, and David Jefferess, eds. 2011. Globalizing Afghanistan: Terrorism, War, and the Rhetoric of Nation Building. Durham: Duke University Press. $79.95 hc. $22.95 sc. 232 pp.

Representing disciplines from history to cultural studies, this essay compilation is among the first sustained attempts at tracing Afghanistan's integration within the post-2001 world order from a humanities perspective. Its global concerns give the work relevance beyond a restricted geographical setting; its interdisciplinary scope has kept most contributions accessible to general audiences; and the theoretically-framed introduction and conclusion orient the work for scholars. It is pedagogically useful for introducing themes in critical theory surrounding post-2001 globality, while its conceptual scope is its value for Afghan studies as a field.

The editors' introduction frames the essays in a post-2001, globalized Afghan national space: the Afghan state is continuously constituted largely by international interests and institutions, while Afghanistan's 'national' existence as a project for the 'international community' has played an ongoing role in the rhetorical and institutional consolidation of that 'community' in specific directions. Influenced especially by Hardt and Negri, the editors argue that driving this dialectic is a new global order, a "global right . . . premised on interdependence, connectedness and commonality, but requir[ing] surveillance, coercion, and enforcement" (7). Meanwhile, Imre Szeman's concluding essay demarcates this volume's stakes. Just as it traces Afghanistan's partial, [End Page 137] subordinated integration into the international community, the volume aims to habilitate knowledge about Afghanistan into critical theory, to tip debate away from terms established by area 'experts' and policy and security narratives. Szeman situates the volume as public intervention via the carefully considered forum of academic humanities—construed here as a zone of public engagement that is nonetheless somewhat insulated from shifting hegemonic public discourses.

For readers with little area background, the two chapters following the introduction are designed to offer political-economic and cultural-historical context on Afghanistan's place in the world after and before 2001. Nigel Gibson's "It's the Opium, Stupid" addresses much more than opium, and asks how Afghanistan's interaction with the world economy has patterned Afghan livelihoods and ecology as well as ideology and power politics. While contemporary Afghanistan may not entirely be a "monocrop" (41) narco-economy, the essay rightly emphasizes the "dark side" (37) of globalization, and the violence it involves, as far more crucial than the international community's 'official' actions in articulating Afghanistan's economy with the world's. Expanding the historical scale, Rodney J. Steward's "Afghanistan in a Globalized World" presents a mostly standard narrative of the Afghan state since the nineteenth century.

The remainder of the volume provides a unique 'kaleidoscopic' cultural history of the world in Afghanistan over the past ten years. Altaf Ullah Khan, in "The Afghan Beat," describes ambivalence among Pakistani Pukhtoon, English-language journalists who function as intermediaries between everyday vernacular representation and global media. Khan's agent-centric account lends welcome dynamism to a discussion of local cultural debates and change, while still emphasizing global inequality and hegemonic processes. The next selections, by Gwen Bergner ("Veiled Motives") and Maliha Chishti and Cheshmak Farhoumand-Sims ("Transnational Feminism and the Women's Rights Agenda in Afghanistan"), mesh neatly. Bergner traces metropolitan discourses on Afghan women's liberation, reading popular feminist representations alongside American nationalism and militarism, while Chishti and Farhoumand-Sims inquire how those discourses, among others, move through global institutions on the ground in Afghanistan, intersecting with local struggles. As such, their contribution helpfully doubles as an introductory map to the landscape of 'nation-building' in Afghanistan. Finally, Kamran Rastegar's "Global Frames on Afghanistan" resonates with Khan's essay by further engaging issues in translating Afghan experience for world markets. Rastegar finds that integrating representations of Afghans into a global art-cinema has relied on mediation by Iranian filmmakers. Despite Afghan migrants' troubled place in Iranian social politics, the Iranian films' [End Page 138] regional political subtext is elided in a global market that values them as the closest proxy for an 'authentically local' voice speaking a cosmopolitan idiom. Given Iran's own place as an Other to the Euro-American fields this...