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Heroes Of The Age: Moral Fault Lines On The Afghan Frontier
by David B. Edwards
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Much of the political turmoil that has occurred in Afghanistan since the Marxist revolution of 1978 has been attributed to the dispute between Soviet-aligned Marxists and the religious extremists inspired by Egyptian and Pakistani brands of "fundamentalist" Islam. In a significant departure from this view, David B. Edwards contends that--though Marxism and radical Islam have undoubtedly played a significant role in the conflict--Afghanistan's troubles derive less from foreign forces and the ideological divisions between groups than they do from the moral incoherence of Afghanistan itself. Seeking the historical and cultural roots of the conflict, Edwards examines the lives of three significant figures of the late nineteenth century--a tribal khan, a Muslim saint, and a prince who became king of the newly created state. He explores the ambiguities and contradictions of these lives and the stories that surround them, arguing that conflicting values within an artificially-created state are at the root of Afghanistan's current instability.
Building on this foundation, Edwards examines conflicting narratives of a tribal uprising against the British Raj that broke out in the summer of 1897. Through an analysis of both colonial and native accounts, Edwards investigates the saint's role in this conflict, his relationship to the Afghan state and the tribal groups that followed him, and the larger issue of how Islam traditionally functions as an encompassing framework of political association in frontier society.
From the Inside Flap
"This is a wonderful, absorbing, moving book."--Barbara Metcalf, University of California, Davis
"An original and significant work that is beautifully written and passionately engaged with material that is fascinating from start to finish. It is one of the best first books I have read in a long, long time."--Steven Caton, New School for Social Research
"A telling analytical juxtaposition of texts in family oral history, saint's legend, autobiography, and edict, amounting to a new approach to Middle Eastern discourse analysis and social history."--Margaret Mills, University of Pennsylvania
"This book, sophisticated, lucid, and compassionate, should be read by more than specialists in Afghanistan. For them, undoubtedly, it is a must."--American Historical Review
"In the refugee camps of PakistanÉ dispossessed Afghan men, seeking to retain some purchase on their past, told stories of great heroes and epic battle of the last century. Edwards provided an audience for these narratives and uses them as the centerpiece for his striking portrait of this much brutalized societyÉ. In this fine book David Edwards has raised disturbing and important questions about the very nature of culture and of morality."--American Anthropologist
From the Back Cover
"This is a wonderful, absorbing, moving book." (Barbara Metcalf, University of California, Davis)
About the Author
David B. Edwards is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Williams College and Director of the Williams Afghan Media Project.
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