To provide an opportunity for academic development for the next generation of scholars on Afghanistan, the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies (AIAS), the Hollings Center for International Dialogue, and the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University hosted a welcome reception and two-day workshop at the School of International and Public Affairs on February 15-17, 2018. The partners invited both international and Afghan scholars to the workshop to present new research and devise new methods to support the growth of scholarship.
Understanding Afghanistan has been a critical need over the past two decades and will continue to be important in the coming years. Yet, the necessary scholarship that can provide better understanding of the country remained underdeveloped both within and outside the country for decades. With the exception of a brief open period between 1960 and 1978, scholarship on Afghanistan remained closed and at best peripheral. This relatively brief period provided most of the scholarship of the country pre-2001. As Thomas Barfield noted in his keynote address to the workshop, since 2001 there has been a resurgence in the study of Afghanistan. A critical mass of new scholars has developed, both international and Afghan, that can understand the country across many disciplines.
During the workshop, scholars presented seventeen papers that now reflect the much wider breadth of topic and discipline that of scholarship in and on Afghanistan. These papers highlighted culture, history, politics, security, and education, among other topics. Following each presentation, other peers commented on each work with the aim of helping to hone the research and provide new collaborative opportunities.
Following the conclusion of the last panel, participants discussed other activities that could foster further scholarship. Some options discussed included better coordination at academic conferences and meetings, sharing publishing resources and experiences, writing more papers in local languages, and creating resource depositories. The organizations involved in the workshop hope that some of these ideas will further sustain momentum of academic development of Afghanistan scholarship.
The American Institute of Afghanistan Studies, of which the Saltzman Institute is an institutional member, is a private, non-profit organization run by scholars with the aim of promoting and encouraging the systematic study of the culture, society, land, languages, health, peoples and history of Afghanistan. AIAS is especially concerned with increasing the numbers of scholars in the United States who have expertise in, and understanding of Afghanistan, and to assist in the rebuilding of academic institutions and the advanced study of Afghanistan by Afghan scholars.