Thursday, February 19, 2009


In part one of Before Taliban, Edwards discusses the career of the self presentation of Taraki, the Khalqi ( communist) leader of Afghanistan in 1978-9. More than once, Edwards used the term "deracinated" to describe either Taraki or his followers.

Useful exercise: look up the word " deracinated."

Edwards claims and documents that Taraki and his followers and collaborators found it impossible to convince most Afghans that the new definitions of justice and oppression, derived from foreign (specifically Marxist) ideas, were relevant to their way of life. Edwards discusses and illustrates this lack of understanding or agreement pretty convincingly, but he does seem to fall into a presentation that makes it seem only natural that Afghans should stick to traditional ideas.

However, it might be worth thinking about the fact that there were quite a few "deracinated Afghans" who were willing to try something new, who in fact seem to have had strong feelings that they should try something new. Edwards shows us these people himself. Not only is there Taraki, there is Aqcha Poor, the agricultural extension agent that Edwards met in Balkh on his first trip to Afghanistan (pp. 14-16), the fictional boys Naim and Jabar (pp. 11-) in the movie of that name, the education students who fell under Amin's influence, the other university students who joined Islamist and Marxist parties, the military officers who made possible the coup that put Taraki in power, etc. My own feeling is that these "deracinated Afghans" represent something bigger than merely a phenomenon in Afghan history, they are part of a worldwide phenomenon which it might be worth coming to grips with.

And what about modernizing rulers? Edwards shows us that Taraki was not the first of these. Are they "deracinated" too?

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