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CREES Lecture. “Potters and Warlords in an Afghan Bazaar: Violence and Political Mobilization in Afghanistan Today.”

Tuesday, April 5, 2011
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University

Noah Coburn, Central Asian Studies Post-Doctoral Fellow and lecturer in anthropology, U-M; and researcher, United States Institute of Peace. Sponsors: CREES, ANTH, WCED.

How does culture shape the way that we understand social organization and violence? This talk focuses on an Afghan market town north of Kabul where the speaker conducted a year and a half of ethnographic research with several lineages of potters. Despite insurgency in neighboring districts and a great deal of tension over land and water rights, the social patterns, including marriage, friendships, and both economic competition and cooperation, made violence an unattractive political tool for many of the young men in town. As the presence of international military forces and development continue to reshape the local political landscape, however, power and sovereignty continue to be re-conceptualized in the area. This talk looks at current sources of instability in Afghanistan on both a local and national level, and more broadly asks what this tells us about the relationship between culture, social organization and power.

Noah Coburn is a visiting fellow with CREES and the Anthropology Department at the University of Michigan where he is teaching a course entitled, “The Anthropology of an International Intervention.” Coburn received his Ph.D. in anthropology from Boston University after conducting research on violence and political mobilization in a market town in the Shomali Plain. Coburn has been conducting research in Afghanistan since 2005 and has worked in Kabul with the United States Institute of Peace and the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit. Additionally, he has taught at the American University of Afghanistan and at Boston University. His book, entitled Bazaar Politics: Potters and Power in an Afghan Market Town, will be published by Stanford University Press this summer.