Shah Mahmoud Hanifi

The Ethnic Map of Afghanistan:
Historical Origins and Political Consequences

This presentation addresses one aspect of a larger history of mapping in Afghanistan.  A brief treatment of pre-modern cartographies introduces the nineteenth-century colonial surveys and British Indian boundary-making missions that generated the now familiar map of Afghanistan rendered as a modern territorial nation-state.  The body of the talk considers the formatting evolution, intellectual ingredients and institutional context of the ethnic map of Afghanistan that was developed in stages in the 1960s and 1970s by the American archaeologist Louis Dupree (1925-1988).  To construct the ethnic map, Dupree relied upon multiple American and Afghan collaborators and informants and the institutional support of the American University Field Staff that sponsored his presence in Afghanistan c. 1959-1980.  The conclusion of the presentation considers how the ethnic map has framed and limited understandings of the cultural and linguistic complexity of Afghanistan.

Shah Mahmoud Hanifi is a Professor of History at James Madison University where he teaches courses on South Asia and the Middle East. Hanifi has a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.  He received a Gutenberg-e Prize from the American Historical Association that resulted in his first book, Connecting Histories in Afghanistan (2008, 2011).  In addition to the AHA, Hanifi has received research grants from the Social Science Research Council, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, the Asian Development Bank, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.  Hanifi’s research and publications address colonial political economy, the history of printing, the Pashto language, photography, cartography, animal and environmental studies in Afghanistan.  His primary current project is a conference and publication series focusing on the early nineteenth-century British Indian scholar-administrator Mounstuart Elphinstone.  Hanifi served as the Treasurer of the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies from 2003-2015, and joined the South Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies and the Board of Trustees of the American Institute of Indian Studies in 2017.