Afghanistan today offers the peculiar case in which different nomadic groups occupy a spectrum from prominent warlords and 'nomad' politicians, to stateless migrants in IDP camps, who are living a marginalized and unacknowledged existence at the fringes of society.
I set out to explore how in social, bureaucratic, and political terms, the official label 'nomad' is occupied in Afghanistan by a group that is comprised of or descends from pastoral nomads (Kuchi), while excluding other (formerly) nomadic groups (such as Jogi, Chori Frosch, Jat), also often termed peripatetics. The research thereby attempts to show that this appropriation of the ‘nomad’ term offers rights, privileges and opportunities to one group of people, while other semi-nomads are excluded from any formal rights, and can even be considered stateless, and operating in a legal vacuum, which leaves them without access to education, judicial system, health care or land ownership. This categorization, however, is not only found in Afghan society itself, but also reflected in the academic community researching nomadic groups in Afghanistan: with little exception, peripatetics have been relegated to the sidelines over the past decade, resulting in an almost universal deficit of academic writing on them. Contrary to most approaches my research, based on original fieldwork, includes both nomadic groups and shows their diverging livelihood strategies.
Despite their differing primary occupations, these pastoralists and peripatetics have one thing in common: their migratory or formerly migratory way of life. Theoretically this could have positioned them equally as marginal groups in need of state protection. However, this has played out differently for them. My research shows that while changes of perception among Afghans of pastoral nomads is closely linked to changes in their ways of life as well as to the socio-political changes in Afghanistan overall, this is not true for peripatetics. This might be due to their structural position which positions the peripatetic groups at the very margins of society, while the pastoral nomads with their sedentary Kuchi counterparts are pushing into the public sphere of politics and business, and are occupying simultaneously some new places as urban poor that they did not occupy before.
I intend to use my time as an IIAS fellow to rework my thesis in combination with new original research from Afghanistan into conference papers, which will highlight the new political environment in Afghanistan, persistent challenges to integrate nomadic groups equally and the rapidly unfolding forces of urbanization that have shaped the past one and a half decades in Afghanistan.
- Afghanistan studies Social- and Cultural Anthropology Political Anthropology
Country of origin
Period of stay at IIAS
Socio-political status, legal rights and the differences between peripatetic and pastoral nomads in Afghanistan.