The 11 candidates for the Afghan presidency do not inspire much hope for change in Afghanistan. They are all of an older generation. Most of them led militias in the fight against the Soviets, all worked in the Karzai government and all have become (or have had their families become) immensely wealthy and powerful during the years of the American intervention. Even with more than half the population below the age of 20, political power in Afghanistan still belongs to the old.
Despite this, change could be on the horizon. A new generation of political leaders is beginning to emerge and I have spent some time over the past 10 days interviewing some of them and went to a US embassy hosted forum on civil society. One of the young men that I spent time with Read More…
Conducting interviews in the winter in Afghanistan is never as fun as in the spring or summer when things are in bloom (you can see the cold garden of my compound below). Luckily there is plenty of political gossip in Kabul these days to keep things interesting. With a little more than 3 months until the date when voting is supposed to happen for the next Afghan presidential election (they may still be delayed even though officials are denying it), one of the fun things about my Field Work Term includes collecting conspiracy theories from both Afghans and internationals on what is going to happen in the lead up to the election. Afghan politics are rarely transparent, candidates rarely make policy statements, and the 11 remaining candidates appear to be in a protracted dance with each other, forming secret alliances, breaking them and then coming back together. This all allows plenty of room for the imagination to run wild.
One of the most common right now is that Karzai is not signing the Bilateral Security Agreement between the US and Afghanistan (the basic terms for leaving US troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014) until the US government agrees to support his brother during the election. This is interesting, of course, because Read More…
One of the side projects that I am currently working on while in Afghanistan is organizing a series of speakers at Bennington in the spring of 2014 around the theme of Art and Activism in Afghanistan. All the of the invited speakers are artists who have worked in Afghanistan, but who produce art that is not simply political, but is meant to bring the viewer into the politics of the place. One of these artists is a film maker named Sam French.
So thanks to the bureaucracy at the US embassy in Kabul, I am stuck in Vermont for a week more than I was planning on. And while today is somewhat milder, the cold weather was especially shocking coming back from 10 days of trekking around Belize. High points included getting the pickup we rented stuck in the mud on several jungle roads (lots of rain this year) and some really great seafood. Getting to some of the Mayan ruins that were more off the beaten track was especially fun.
Xunantunich which had a population of 200,000 at its height, and can now only be visited by taking a hand cranked ferry was particularly beautiful (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xunantunich) and certainly got me to continue thinking about how empires can rise and fall quickly (are you listening person who is supposed to be processing my travel approval at the US embassy?).