Ethnoscapes, national territorialisation, and the Afghan war

Release date: 2005-01

This article pursues the question of how the territorialisation of power in the establishment of the Afghan nation-state has affected the spatial perceptions of political actors and the population at large. This question is particularly topical as spatial references are at present the driving force behind an ethnicisation of politics in Afghanistan. These perceived ethnic spaces, so-called ethnoscapes, not only compete with one another, but also contradict Afghanistan itself as a national territory. Thus since the outbreak of the Afghan war 1979 various political actors have been attempting to mobilise their constituencies over ethnic issues in order to use references to the spatial origins and expansion of their ethnic category to legitimise political claims. The principal argument of this article is that the population’s strong identification with the national territory of Afghanistan has to date prevented an ethnicisation of the masses in the Afghan conflict. Furthermore the article argues that the irreconcilability of the various perceived ethnic territories is an obstacle to the currently much-discussed establishment of ethno-federalism.