What does it mean to be "Afghan"?

April 13, 2014

What does it mean to be "Afghan"?I am deeply excited to be able to share the thesis paper I completed for my B.A. with the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University. I would like to take a moment to thank my advisor, Dr. Harris Mylonas, for his invaluable support and mentorship in the process of writing this thesis. I would also like to thank Maida Withers and Dr. Ashley Thorndike-Youssef, my advisors and mentors, for all of their continued support and guidance during the four years of my undergraduate experience and during the research process for this thesis. Additionally, I owe special thanks to all of the people I interviewed for this thesis who were kind enough to take the time to share their time and thoughts with me. Thank you also to Dr. Paul Bucherer-Dietschi and the Afghanistan Institut, Dr. Erica Cusi Wortham, Dr. Margaret Soltan, Dr. Muriel Atkin, Michele Clark, Dr. Laurel Victoria Gray, Dr. Justin Olav Wyss-Gallifent, and everyone else who has helped to make this thesis possible.


I've included a couple of quotations below from the interviews I conducted with Afghan community members about their experiences with dance that have stuck with me. To see what other community members have said and to learn more about the question of what it means to be "Afghan" through the lens of dance after 40+ years of conflict, I invite you to read my thesis here (will redirect to a PDF document). If you would like to share any thoughts or ask any questions about what you read, please feel free to leave me a note via the comments section or contact me directly by email at angela.schopke@gmail.com.


“The   Attan   shows   unity.   My   aunts   thus   showed   interest,   I   mean   because   of   the   unity.   A   lot   of   Attan songs are patriotic. They help us to get in touch with  our  roots  when  we’re  away  from  our   country.   My   mother   said,   “When   I   was   in   Afghanistan,   I   didn’t   even   like   Attan.”   But   now   she   does. The Attan is our national dance. I think our history is pretty transient, but our culture is perpetual.  That’s  another  part  of  Afghan  identity,  the  whole  border  or  no  border  thing.”  

          – Afghan-American in Fairfax, Virginia, USA (Interview 4U)


“We  can  have  a...  world  without  having  borders  without  having  political  systems.  The  only  thing   that’s  impossible  in  this  world  is  connecting people through politics. And I think that music can help us to have a world without any borders. But at the same time, socially, many Afghans who are coming from Iran, spending many years in Iran, they love Iran, they love everything about Iran. Their culture, their religion, their knowledge, their social and cultural approaches, the way that they are speaking. And the best style, always Iranian. Always listening to Iranian music, always  practicing  Iranian  dance  styles...  On  the  other  side,  Attan  is  basically a dance style that was being practiced by, not all of the Pashtuns but a part of Pashtuns in Paktika and Pakhtia provinces.  It’s  being  considered  as  a...  as  a  national  dance  style,  [...],  but  non-Pashtun people are not practicing it. They believe that this is not a national dance style. It was forced by Pashtun majority  to  publicize  this  dance  style.”  

          – Afghan in Kabul, Kabul, Afghanistan (Interview 1A) 




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© 2015-2020 by Angela M. Schöpke Gonzalez.