The Carpetbaggers of Kabul and Other America-Afghan Entanglements: Intimate Development, Geopolitics and the Currency of Gender and Grief, published by University of Georgia Press in January 2017.
The idea for writing this book began in 2007 when I was an assistant professor at Dartmouth College researching international assistance in Afghanistan. At that time, my co-author Rachel Lehr was executive director of Rubia, Inc., a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that worked in partnership with the Rubia Organization for the Development of Afghanistan, a local nongovernmental organization. This partnership grew from a long-term personal relationship Rachel had established with Afghans in the early 1980s. In 2007 Rubia, Inc. began the registration process for becoming a 501c3 non-profit with a board of directors. I became an active board member and met with and visited Rubia’s programs and participants in Afghanistan. Over the course of these experiences Rachel and I began to work together on a number of different academic projects. One of our collaborative efforts included developing and presenting a series of lectures about everyday life in Afghanistan and the geopolitics of conflict, aid, and development, titled Rediscovering Afghanistan: Lessons from the Home. We presented these lectures during 2007–12 throughout New Hampshire (NH), in partnership with the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire and funded by the NH Humanities Council.
These lectures were developed from my research on geopolitics and international aid and development in Afghanistan, and Rachel’s ethnographic research and experiences living and working with Afghans. My research included questionnaires and interviews with Afghans and international workers primarily living and working in Kabul, Afghanistan. Rachel’s research was gathered while she was completing her doctoral dissertation in rural Afghanistan. Our lectures attempted to provide a complex and complicated view of both international geopolitics and daily life in Afghanistan, which included presenting images, short videos, and stories not seen in the mainstream media at the time.
Developed from these lectures, this book presents the complexities, complications, and contradictions of U.S.-Afghanistan relations and unravels them through analyses at the intersection of the personal and the geopolitical. In order to effectively disentangle these multifaceted stories and view them clearly and critically, we center our analyses of American-Afghan entanglements at an intimate scale. The case studies developed in the book exemplify the interlocking relationship between international geopolitics and everyday lives. Dominant development programs have fixated on changing the culture to liberate women and meet the demands of capitalistic and market-driven development paradigms. This book seeks to analyze the geopolitics and messiness of assistance and development by examining the ordinary untidiness of American-Afghan entanglements.