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History > Asian History > Central Asia
Nation-Building in Afghanistan
In October 2001, the Bush administration sent Amb. James F. Dobbins, who had overseen nation-building efforts in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, to war-torn Afghanistan to help the Afghans assemble a successor government to the Taliban. From warlords to exiled royalty, from turbaned tribal chieftains to elegant émigré intellectuals, Ambassador Dobbins introduces a range of colorful Afghan figures competing for dominance in the new Afghanistan. His firsthand account of the post–9/11 American diplomacy also reveals how collaboration within Bush’s war cabinet began to break down almost as soon as major combat in Afghanistan ceased. His insider’s memoir recounts how the administration reluctantly adjusted to its new role as nation-builder, refused to allow American soldiers to conduct peacekeeping operations, opposed dispatching international troops, and shortchanged Afghan reconstruction as its attention shifted to Iraq.
In After the Taliban, Dobbins probes the relationship between the Afghan and Iraqi ventures. He demonstrates how each damaged the other, with deceptively easy success in Afghanistan breeding overconfidence and then the latter draining essential resources away from the initial effort. Written by America’s most experienced diplomatic troubleshooter, this important new book is for readers looking for insights into how government really works, how diplomacy is actually conducted, and most important why the United States has failed to stabilize either Afghanistan or Iraq.
Cosmopolitan Families in India and Abroad
The proliferation of old age homes and increasing numbers of elderly living alone are startling new phenomena in India. These trends are related to extensive overseas migration and the transnational dispersal of families. In this moving and insightful account, Sarah Lamb shows that older persons are innovative agents in the processes of social-cultural change. Lamb's study probes debates and cultural assumptions in both India and the United States regarding how best to age; the proper social-moral relationship among individuals, genders, families, the market, and the state; and ways of finding meaning in the human life course.
"Will be of interest to those working on conflict and peace studies, economic development, cultural studies, and women in the modern world. A key new publication." -- Chandra R. de Silva, Old Dominion University
"... offers a superb overview of how a civil war,
driven by ethnicity, can engender a new culture and a new political economy...
Economy, Culture, and Civil War in Sri Lanka provides a lucid and up-to-date interpretation of Sri Lankan society and its 20-year civil conflict. An interdisciplinary examination of the relationship between the economy, broadly defined, and the reproduction of violent conflict, this volume argues that the war is grounded not just in the goals and intentions of the opposing sides, but also in the everyday orientations, experiences, and material practices of all Sri Lankan people. The contributors explore changing political and policy contexts; the effect of long-term conflict on employment opportunities and life choices for rural and urban youth; life histories, memory, and narratives of violence; the "economics of enlisting" and individual decisions about involvement in the war; and nationalism and the moral debate triggered by women's employment in the international garment manufacturing industry.
Contributors are Francesca Bremner, Michele Ruth Gamburd, Newton Gunasinghe, Siri T. Hettige, Caitrin Lynch, John M. Richardson, Jr., Amita Shastri, Deborah Winslow, and Michael D. Woost.
Activism, Aid, and NGOs
Julie Hemment's engrossing study traces the development encounter through interactions between international foundations and Russian women's groups during a decade of national collapse. Prohibited from organizing independently under state socialism, women's groups became a focus of attention in the mid-1990s for foundations eager to promote participatory democracy, but the version of civil society that has emerged (the "third sector") is far from what Russian activists envisioned and what donor agencies promised. Drawing on ethnographic methods and Participatory Action Research, Hemment tells the story of her introduction to and growing collaboration with members of the group Zhenskii Svet (Women's Light) in the provincial city of Tver'.
With fresh and provocative insights into the everyday reality of politics in post-Soviet Central Asia, this volume moves beyond commonplaces about strong and weak states to ask critical questions about how democracy, authority, and justice are understood in this important region. In conversation with current theories of state power, the contributions draw on extensive ethnographic research in settings that range from the local to the transnational, the mundane to the spectacular, to provide a unique perspective on how politics is performed in everyday life.
Past and Present
For its citizens, contemporary Central Asia is a land of great promise and peril. While the end of Soviet rule has opened new opportunities for social mobility and cultural expression, political and economic dynamics have also imposed severe hardships. In this lively volume, contributors from a variety of disciplines examine how ordinary Central Asians lead their lives and navigate shifting historical and political trends. Provocative stories of Turkmen nomads, Afghan villagers, Kazakh scientists, Kyrgyz border guards, a Tajik strongman, guardians of religious shrines in Uzbekistan, and other narratives illuminate important issues of gender, religion, power, culture, and wealth. A vibrant and dynamic world of life in urban neighborhoods and small villages, at weddings and celebrations, at classroom tables, and around dinner tables emerges from this introduction to a geopolitically strategic and culturally fascinating region.
Law and the Ordering of Everyday Like in Kygyzstan
Judith Beyer presents a finely textured ethnographic study that sheds new light on the legal and moral ordering of everyday life in northwestern Kyrgyzstan. Through her extensive fieldwork, Beyer captures the thoughts and voices of local people in two villages: Aral and Engels, and combines these with firsthand observations to create an original ethnography. Beyer shows how local Kyrgyz negotiate proper behavior and regulate disputes by invoking custom, known to the locals as salt. While salt is presented as age-old tradition, its invocation needs to be understood as a highly developed and flexible rhetorical strategy that people adapt to suit the political, legal, economic, and religious environments.Officially, codified state law should take precedence when it comes to dispute resolution, yet the unwritten laws of salt and the increasing importance of Islamic law provide the standards for ordering everyday life. As Beyer further reveals, interpretations of both Islamic and state law are also intrinsically linked to salt. By interweaving case studies on kinship, legal negotiations, festive events, mourning rituals, and political and business dealings, Beyer shows how salt is the binding element in rural Kyrgyz social life, used to explain and negotiate moral behavior and to postulate communal identity. In this way, salt provides a time-tested, sustainable source of authentication that defies changes in government and the tides of religious movements. Beyer’s ground-level analysis provides a broad base of knowledge that will be valuable for students and researchers of contemporary Central Asia.