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  • Print publication year: 1991
  • Online publication date: August 2009

1 - Personal background


Aims and circumstances

The fieldwork on which this study is based began when RLT and I travelled in western Afghan Turkistan for a month in 1968. When we returned to Afghanistan in 1970–1972, our primary aims were ethnographic. The first was to describe a people (the Durrani Pashtun) and an area (western Afghan Turkistan) little known to anthropologists or other scholars (see Map 1). I was keen to examine further the role and organization of women in sexually segregated societies (see N. Tapper 1968; 1978), while RLT was particularly interested in aspects of the pastoral economy and in the forms and contexts of inter-ethnic contact between the Pashtuns and others in the region. The present study reflects our initial intentions, and its focus — the construction and meaning of marriage — has proved one way of uniting our interests in terms of an institution of central concern to the Durrani Pashtuns themselves.

Late in 1970 we travelled overland to Kabul and soon acquired permits to begin a one-month survey in Afghan Turkistan. Our object was to visit sections of the Ishaqzai, who were politically and numerically the dominant Durrani tribe in Jouzjan and Faryab provinces, with a view to finding one group with whom it would be convenient (for us, for them and for the authorities) to settle.