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About the Author

Includes the name: Thomas J. Barfield

Works by Thomas J. Barfield

Associated Works

Empires: Perspectives from Archaeology and History (2001) — Contributor — 9 copies


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Barfield, Thomas J.
Legal name
Barfield, Thomas Jefferson
University of Pennsylvania (BA)
Harvard University (MA)
Harvard University (PhD)
Professor of Anthropology, Boston University
Short biography
Dr. Thomas Barfield’s current research focuses on problems of political development in Afghanistan, particularly on systems of local governance and dispute resolution. He has also published extensively on contemporary and historic nomadic pastoral societies in Eurasia with a particular emphasis on politics and economy. Dr. Barfield conducted ethnographic fieldwork in northern Afghanistan in the mid-1970s as well as shorter periods of research in Xinjiang, China, and post-Soviet Uzbekistan.

Barfield received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006 that led to the publication of his newest book, Afghanistan: A Political and Cultural History (2010). He is also director of Boston University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies & Civilization and currently serves as president of the American Institute for Afghanistan Studies.



Make it 4.5. A must read for anyone interested in this country of mountains and rivers and warring tribes.
ben_r47 | 4 other reviews | Feb 22, 2024 |
Well-written and with meaningful insights, although text can be somewhat repetitive, or at least organised symphonically.
Mithril | 4 other reviews | Jan 28, 2018 |
Excellent book on the steppe cultures that influenced China. Many of us who "read" Chinese history have omitted half the story from our education--that of the non-Chinese steppe cultures that have all left their mark on Chinese culture. If the names Xiong-nu, Jurchen, Liao, Yuezhi, Uyghur, Mongol, Manchu are only names to you without context; read this book. The only irritating element was its use of Wade-Giles rather than Pinyin. I hope the next edition editor converts the transliterations for future generations.… (more)
pbjwelch | Jul 25, 2017 |
Reading this fascinating book is like registering for a survey course in the History of Afghanistan. However, this is a double-edged sword in that returning to read it is not necessarily a pleasure but almost the equivalent of fulfilling a classroom assignment. Once you're immersed in it, the book takes over, but the text is dense and academic and a tad dry, although leavened occasionally with a nice throw-away line. Barfield is a professor of anthropology, and his expertise lends a dimension to history; one learns, for example, of the key interactions between the nation's most important ethnic groups and how this interplay effected the actions of the State. It is quite amazing how ignorant the George W. Bush administration was of the country's culture; as usual, they got it wrong consistently and without fail. The impact of Al Qaeda is viewed against the background of a country which considered itself the leading exponent of Islam; the number of foreign Al Qaeda warriors was not appreciated by the population. The rural vs. urban nature of Afghanistan often translated into reactionary vs. radical (in the context of Afghan history). Rural Afghanistan remains one of the most underdeveloped regions in the world. And often, it was Afghan monarchs who refused to modernize, preferring the status quo which allowed them to rule without insurrection. When modernizers were dominant in Kabul, the state was often plunged into civil war or insurgencies. Also: there is a general, widespread love of country, which in times of foreign intervention translates into nation-wide resistance. However, this is not yet nationalism because the term "nation-state" does not apply to the entity of Afghanistan. There is little sense, for example, of how Afghanistan fits into a global picture--or even a regional one. There is merely the sense of nationhood.… (more)
1 vote
neddludd | 4 other reviews | Sep 11, 2016 |


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