Hosted by Kristian Petersen at New Books Network
Over time and across different genres, Afghanistan has been presented to the world as potential ally, dangerous enemy, gendered space, and mysterious locale. These powerful, if competing, visions seek to make sense of Afghanistan and to render it legible. In Imagining Afghanistan: The History and Politics of Imperial Knowledge (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Nivi Manchanda, Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, uncovers and critically explores Anglophone practices of knowledge cultivation and representational strategies, and argues that Afghanistan occupies a distinctive place in the imperial imagination: over-determined and under-theorised, owing largely to the particular history of imperial intervention in the region. Focusing on representations of gender, state and tribes, Manchanda re-historicizes and de-mythologizes the study of Afghanistan through a sustained critique of colonial forms of knowing and demonstrates how the development of pervasive tropes in Western conceptions of Afghanistan have enabled Western intervention, invasion and bombing in the region from the nineteenth century to the present. In our conversation we discussed Afghanistan as a discursive regime, the imperial politics of knowledge production, modern myths about Afghanistan, the narratives of the “Great Game” and the “Graveyard of Empires,” the role of the native informant, the failed state, the “War on Terror,” the representation of the “Afghan woman” and Afghan masculinities, and a genealogy of the term “tribe.”
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University.
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