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Photo: "Nuristan Province" by seair21 on Flickr; cropped

The Counter-Civilization of Kafiristan / Peristan: socio-political and economic relations in precolonial times

Alberto M. Cacopardo, University of Florence

Tuesday, January 21, 2020
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Bunche 10383

Until the 16th century CE, the pre-Islamic cultures of the Hindukush/Karakorum extended over a vast area about twice the size of Switzerland, which ranged from the Kabul Kohistan to the borders of Kashmir and was then known as Kafiristan, the "land of the infidels." Though by then entirely surrounded by Islamized peoples, the whole region was closed to Muslim traffic and virtually unknown to the outside world. It was inhabited by a myriad of independent mountain communities, speaking some twenty different Indo-European languages and practicing a variety of religious and cultural forms, which had probably enough in common to be construed as a non-literate, non-urban, marketless, stateless, countercivilization. “Kafir” was the label applied to these cultures by their Muslim neighbours, and “Peristan” is the name we currently use to describe them. This talk will introduce the Kafir cultures through a range of colonial and pre-colonial sources, as well as through recent ethnographic and ethnohistorical inquiry.

Alberto M. Cacopardo is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florence, Italy. He has conducted ethnographic field research and ethnohistorical studies on the Kafir and former-Kafir cultures of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan over a period of over forty years. His research has been mostly concerned with the political and economic institutions of  small-scale, nonliterate societies and their change over time in the precolonial and colonial periods.

Sponsor(s): Program on Central Asia