Academic journal article Military Review

AFGHANISTAN: A Cultural and Political History

Academic journal article Military Review

AFGHANISTAN: A Cultural and Political History

Article excerpt

AFGHANISTAN: A Cultural and Political History, Thomas Barfield, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2010, 389 pages, $29.95.

At certain times, certain readers may consider certain books important; they may deem a select few as essential. Thomas Barfield's Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History fits the latter category. Barfield has written an important and topical work of cultural interpretation. A professor of anthropology at Boston University, he is uniquely equipped to write such a book. He published significant scholarly studies based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Afghanistan and Central Asia long before these areas were headlines in our newspapers. He also serves as director of the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilization and as president of the American Institute for Afghanistan Studies.

Barfield interprets the complex ethnic and social mosaic that is Afghanistan for interested nonspecialist readers in a way that does not talk down or oversimplify the complexity of the issues. An anthropologist who is no historical structuralist, Barfield provides a concise but informative history of Afghanistan. He explains how it has shaped and continues to influence the ethos, culture, and mores of the various ethnic groups, and suggests that a common history may be a unifying force that can supersede sectarian divisions. …

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