Friday, June 04, 2010

Medieval Afghanistan?

  1. The area we now call Afghanistan existed during the Middle Ages, and back then it was not much like it is now, or like France or England at that time. Studying Afghanistan's actual historical development, from home of empires (instead of football of empires) to the decentralized home of Pashtunwali, might just be more relevant than trying to visualize Afghanistan as a rather slow off-the-mark Europe.
  2. These pictures. How does categorizing Afghanistan as much like medieval Europe account for the fact than an independent Afghanistan, not yet occupied by foreign forces, looked like this just four decades ago? Remember that some of the people in those pictures are still alive, in Kabul, or Peshawar, or Columbia, Maryland, or Toronto. In what way have their lives been like that of medieval Europeans? Be precise.
In some ways, we don't generalize enough in history. Generalization is all too often avoided by the prudent scholars and left to daring souls who, as a friend of mine once said, "extrapolate from the last two points on the graph." Or plunk down a handy "Western" analogy on a distant culture because it is more convenient than learning the details of its own specificity.

I wouldn't say "just.stop.generalizing." Rather, "check your generalizations carefully, and don't insist your analogy is a magic key to everything." It's not always Munich in 1938, nor Paris in 1793. The dead, as Modern Medieval says on its masthead, still have something to say, but they won't do the hard work of understanding for you.

Image: Not the Loire Valley, or the Welsh border.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for these thoughtful additions to my post, Steve. Agreed and agreed.