The imperial sociology of the ‘tribe’ in Afghanistan
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Millennium: Journal of International Studies
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© The Author(s) 2017. The ‘tribe’ is a notion intimately related to the study of Afghanistan, used as a generic signifier for all things Afghan, it is through this notion that the co-constitution of coloniser and colonised is crystallised and foregrounded in Afghanistan. By tracing the way in which the term ‘tribe’ has been deployed in the Afghan context, the article performs two kinds of intellectual labour. First, by following the evolution of a concept from its use in the early 19th century to the literature on Afghanistan in the 21st century, wherein the ‘tribes’ seem to have acquired a newfound importance, it undertakes a genealogy or intellectual history of the term. The Afghan ‘tribes’ as an object of study, follow an interesting trajectory: initially likened to Scottish clans, they were soon seen as brave and loyal men but fundamentally different from their British interlocutors, to a ‘problem’ that needed to be managed and finally, as indispensable to a long-term ‘Afghan strategy’. And second, it endeavours to describe how that intellectual history is intimately connected to the exigencies of imperialism and the colonial politics of knowledge production.