Jennifer Brick

Customary Organizations and the Foundations of State Building in Afghanistan: The Role ofMaliks, Mullahs, and Jirgas in Local Governance

Despite state weakness, a surprising amount of public goods and services are provided at the
community level in rural Afghanistan , largely through “customary” or “traditional”
organizations such as maliks (village executives), jirgas or shuras (village councils), and
mullahs. Do these organizations hinder the “state building” process? This talk will address the
state of customary organizations in post-2001 Afghanistan and how they interact with a
nationwide program designed to create new local governing councils that also seek to provide
public goods and services to communities. This talk is based on analysis of quantitative data
sources as well as extensive field work across 32 villages in six provinces throughout rural

Jennifer Brick is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is completing her dissertation on the nature of public good provision in rural Afghanistan where she spent more than one year conducting field research. Prior to graduate school, she worked in former-Soviet Central Asia for more than five years, primarily in Uzbekistan. She has worked for USAID, UNDP, as well as several non-governmental organizations throughout the region on issues related to democratization, local governance, and rule of law. Her research interests intersect the fields of law, politics, and economics.

This lecture is co-sponsored by CREECA (Center for Russia, East Europe and Central Asia)