Talking the talk: Debating debate in northern Afghanistan


  • The research on which this article is based would not have been possible without the support of many people in Afghanistan whose names I am an unfortunately not able to mention here. Fieldwork in Afghanistan was conducted in November 2005, December 2006, December 2007 and March 2008 with the help of Trinity College, Cambridge and a grant from the Nuffield Foundation. I am grateful for comments and insightful criticism from Caroline and Filipo Osella as well as anonymous AT reviewers. With the exception of Kabul, I have not included place names, and I use pseudonyms for all people throughout. All mistakes are of course my own.


The ethnographic focus of this article is on the ways in which Afghan families who lived in northern Pakistan as refugees are currently reflecting upon to their complex experiences of return to their country through a rich and complex culture of debate, as well as the deployment of other verbal and peformative skills, especially imitation. More broadly, it argues that the comparative study of situated practices of debate offers unique insights for the anthropological analysis of Islam, which an expanding body of work on the ways in which piety minded Muslims embody and cultivate ethical and moral values has thus far overlooked.