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The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan

Adaptation to Closed Frontiers and War

By M. Nazif Shahrani

Publication Year: 2002

Published by: University of Washington Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The idea of preparing a new, updated paperback edition of this book was born almost immediately after its first hardcover edition sold out in the mid-1980s. Because of my preoccupation with other projects, however, it did not become a serious proposition for another twenty years. ...

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Preface to the 2002 Edition: Afghanistan, the Taliban, and Global Terror, Inc.

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pp. ix-xxviii

As a native Afghan and a naturalized citizen of the United States, in the very tough days following September 11, 2001, I found myself in a very serious predicament. My adopted country, the United States, is at war with my homeland, where my natal family, my siblings and their children, are living. ...

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Preface to the Original Edition

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pp. xxix-xxxvi

This book is based on twenty months of anthropological field research, from July 1972 to February 1974, in the Wakhan Corridor and the Pamirs of Afghanistan. My primary research focus was on the Kirghiz pastoralists of the Afghan Pamirs, with only a secondary interest in their agriculturalist neighbors, the Wakhi. ...

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pp. xxxvii-xlii

This book is primarily concerned with the cultural ecological adaptation of a small group of Kirghiz pastoralists and Wakhi agropastoralists to the sociopolitical conditions of closed frontiers, and to the constraints of the marginal high-altitude environment they inhabit. ...

Part I. Space, Time, and Human Communities

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1. The Ecological Setting

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pp. 3-18

The Wakhan Corridor and the Afghan Pamirs form the narrow finger of land extending eastward from Afghanistan. It touches the People's Republic of China (Sinkiang Province) in the east and is sandwiched between the Soviet Union (Tajik S.S.R.) in the north and Pakistan in the south. ...

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2. History and Demographic Process

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pp. 19-52

The sociopolitical history and demographic processes in the Wakhan Corridor and the Afghan Pamirs are dominated by two significant and interconnected factors—the geographical location and imposing topography of the Pamirs and the use of the corridor as a highway of trade and communication. ...

Part II. Strategies of Adaptation

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3. The Wakhi High-Altitude Agropastoral Adaptation

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pp. 55-86

One of the basic organizing principles of the network of social relations in Wakhi society is agnatic descent and kinship. Personal identity, group membership, unity and difference, conflict and harmony, within or between groups in Wakhi society, are expressed on the basis of cultural ideas ...

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4. The Kirghiz Pastoral Subsistence System

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pp. 87-117

The Pamir ecological zone, as described in chapter 1, lies well above the altitudes of agricultural production, and so is at best a marginal high-altitude, mountain-plateau zone in which resources for the support of the human population can be best utilized only through nomadic adaptation. ...

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5. The Kirghiz People, the Oey, and the Qorow

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pp. 118-149

The immediate and short-term effects of high-altitude or acute hypoxic discomfort experienced by most lowland sojourners, described in the literature as "mountain sickness" or "altitude sickness," is probably the most commonly feared and discussed effect of the highland environment. ...

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6. The Kirghiz Sociocultural System

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pp. 150-166

The Kirghiz social structure is organized on agnatic-descent principles. All Kirghiz living in the Afghan Pamirs claim common descent from the same male ancestor, whose name and identity is generally unknown to the majority. The most commonly known relevant ancestors are four men who were allegedly brothers, ...

Part III. Closed Frontiers

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7. Territorial Loss: An Intracultural Adaption

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pp. 169-185

The concept of frontier as it is used here has a much broader implication than generally accepted in anthropological literature, where its implication is restricted to cultural frontiers (e.g., see Bohannan and Plog 1967 and other acculturation and adaptation studies). ...

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8. Adaptation to Socioeconomic and Cultural Restrictions

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pp. 186-214

The severance of Kirghiz socioeconomic ties with the agricultural population of a "key economic" region to their north and east, brought about by the closure of the Soviet and Chinese frontiers, forced the Kirghiz to look for alternative sources of agricultural and market goods. ...

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9. Conclusion

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pp. 215-229

The basic assumption of the preceding analysis is that the present location of the Kirghiz and Wakhi communities and their particular adaptive strategies are strongly influenced not only by their responses to the constraints of high altitude, but also by their relationships with other societies ...

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Epilogue: Coping with a Communist "Revolution," State Failure, and War

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pp. 230-268

During the summer of 1975, while I was accompanying a British Granada Television crew to film a documentary on the Kirghiz of Afghanistan, an Afghan army officer and a soldier rode into the camp of Haji Rahman Qul, the Kirghiz Khan (chief). The officer produced a letter from the governor of Badakhshan province offering Kirghiz families the chance ...


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pp. 269-280


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pp. 281-296


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pp. 297-302

E-ISBN-13: 9780295803784
E-ISBN-10: 0295803789
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295982625
Print-ISBN-10: 0295982624

Publication Year: 2002

Edition: Revised