To rule the roof of the world: power and patronage in Afghan Kyrgyz society
Callahan, Edward M., Jr.
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This anthropological study of two Kyrgyz communities in Afghanistan's Pamir Mountains examines the changing nature of political leadership in Afghan Kyrgyz society over the past forty years. The research was conducted during nineteen months spent in Afghanistan, between 2006 and 2010, including twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork and participant observation among the Kyrgyz in both the Great and Little Pamirs. Data were collected on Kyrgyz history, demography, pastoral production strategies and market access-as well as, most importantly, the political strategies of various Kyrgyz leaders. Given the predominately rural nature of Afghanistan and the limited reach and influence of formal government structures, informal leadership constitutes the primary form of governance experienced by most Afghans. Far from being a timeless or static process, access to positions to leadership has been and remains opportunistic and dynamic, demonstrating considerable adaptability to changing social, economic, and political conditions. This study considers informal leadership in Afghan Kyrgyz society over four periods: pre-April 1978; the Saur Revolution and the Soviet-Afghan war (1978-1989); the mujahideen conquest, the civil war, and the war against the Taliban (1989-2001); and the post-Taliban period (2001-2012). Kyrgyz population transfers, the Soviet occupation of the Pamirs, mujahideen rule, and post-Taliban state-building efforts in Afghanistan have had far-reaching effects upon Kyrgyz politics, primarily by reconstituting access to political capital. In contrast to the pre-1978 period, when it was derived mostly from pastoral wealth, political capital has been increasingly accumulated through the process of extracting and redistributing exogenous resources, via patron-client networks, by Kyrgyz leaders seeking to establish, maintain, legitimize or contest political authority. Situating both the Great and Little Pamir, as well as the Afghan state, in recent historical context, this dissertation explains the various social and economic factors that account for the development of three different types of political leadership-the khan, the wakil, and the CDCs-all of which, though, retain the same goal: extracting patronage to accumulate political capital and legitimacy. It concludes by noting recent significant events which have occurred in both Pamirs, changes which are illustrative of Kyrgyz politics and which will greatly affect the future ofthis community.
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