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AfghanistanA Cultural and Political History$
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Thomas Barfield

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780691145686

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691145686.001.0001

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People and Places

People and Places

(p.17) Chapter One People and Places

Thomas Barfield

Princeton University Press

This chapter provides a basic outline of Afghanistan's land and peoples. It describes how the various tribal and ethnic groups of Afghanistan work, because they have all played key roles in Afghanistan's history and remain vital in understanding current events there. Furthermore, this chapter introduces what Afghans themselves take for granted: their geography, religion, subsistence economy, and architecture, along with the persistent aspects of social organization in which they ground their lives. Finally, the chapter applies ibn Khaldun's classic model of Middle Eastern political organization to Afghanistan, arguing that, far from participating in a single political sphere, Afghanistan has always been two worlds, interacting but unintegrated. Its contrasting patterns of subsistence, social organization, and regional political structures underlie long-standing ethnic and tribal divisions, constituting elements of material life and social organization that have persisted for centuries, even millennia, and setting the framework for daily life as it is ordinarily lived.

Keywords:   Middle Eastern political organization, ibn Khaldun, Afghanistan, Afghan people, social organization, ethnic division, regional political structures, material life, Afghan daily life

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