SOAS University of London

Centre of Contemporary Central Asia & the Caucasus

Anthony Hyman Memorial Lecture 2019: Connecting citizens with the state? Changing discourses and programmes on community development & local governance in Afghanistan

Dr Orzala Ashraf Nemat (Director of Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) and Research Associate, SOAS Dept of Development Studies)

Date: 14 March 2019Time: 6:15 PM

Finishes: 14 March 2019Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Lecture

IMG - 20190314 - AHML 2019


Louis Dupree the well-known pre-war American anthropologist on Afghanistan wrote about the metaphorical ‘mud curtain’ that Afghan villagers erected to keep the state at bay, resisting its efforts at conscription, enumeration and taxation. This situation has changed dramatically, particularly since the post-2001 military intervention in Afghanistan, which has seen an unprecedented level of interventionism from the state, NGOs, the military, and religious networks at the local level – effectively tearing down the ‘mud curtain’. These interventions have resulted in the reconfiguration of power relations at the local level and transformed local perceptions and expectations of the central state.

Drawing on ethnographies of the nationwide World Bank-sponsored government- and NGO-run National Solidarity Program (NSP) and the sub-national governance programme of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG), in addition to more recent experiences of the Citizen’s Charter (a successor to the NSP), this talk will examine how discourses of ‘local development’ have evolved, how they have been mediated through international and domestic politics, and how they ‘hit the ground’ at the local level.

The talk aims to uncover the different and clashing perspectives and approaches, by highlighting the fault lines between politics, development and peace-building in light of the latest Citizen’s Charter program and evolving peace talks in search of a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.


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Anthony Hyman Memorial Lecture 2019: Connecting citizens with the state?

Speaker Biography

Orzala Nemat is Director of Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) and a Research Associate, SOAS Department of Development Studies. Prior to this, she served briefly as Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani’s Advisor on Sub-national Governance. Dr Nemat has an extensive research, practitioner and activist first-hand experience which shapes and influences her perspective and approach to policy and research today.

Dr Nemat holds a PhD in Development Studies from SOAS University of London, a MSc from University College London (UCL) and has been a Yale World Fellow class of 2008. As an expert in political ethnography her research interest includes development and conflict, gender, governance and borderlands studies. Her PhD thesis in Development Studies focused on local governance relations that results from external interventions. Dr Nemat was born in 1977 in Afghanistan and lived as a refugee in Pakistan for 14 years.  Following completion of her Doctorate Studies and two years of teaching at SOAS, Dr Nemat moved back to her home country, serving briefly as the Afghan president's advisor on local governance.  As an Afghan scholar with over 16 years of experience in development practice, activism and women’s rights, Dr Nemat brings an enriching experience into her new career path, leading the Afghanistan Research & Evaluation Unit (AREU), one of the top research think-tanks in Central Asia region & Afghanistan. Dr Nemat provides regular analysis through her writings, talks, media appearance and scholarly work on conflict, development, gender and the way local power relations affected by global interventions.

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Contemporary Central Asia and the Caucasus

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