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Imagining Afghanistan
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Book description

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 this innovative examination, Nivi Manchanda 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-historicises and de-mythologises 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.


‘Theoretically deft and empirically rich, Imagining Afghanistan is a searing account of how imperial narratives facilitate ‘humanitarian' interventions. Manchanda forensically dissects this orientalist imaginary forged from a large corpus of hoary clichés about states, tribes and eternal warriors, and deeply gendered portraiture of brown women in need of rescue from threatening brown men. A brilliant book.'

Laleh Khalili - author of Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies

‘In its secret history of the war in Afghanistan, US military officials confessed that they ‘didn't have the foggiest notion' of what they ‘were undertaking'. Nivi Manchanda's Imagining Afghanistan explains why not, in painstaking and painful detail.'

Robert Vitalis - author of The Myths of Scarcity and Security That Haunt US Energy Policy

‘Imagining Afghanistan is an important work that clearly demonstrates how terminology shapes perceptions, and also how the depiction of a country, people, and even a situation can change with the political and social vicissitudes of the day … Highly recommended.’

T. M. May Source: Choice

‘… it allows us to look at the historical, political, and social processes around Afghanistan from a new perspective ...’

Georgi Asatryan Source: Pacific Affairs

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