On Peace Activists and Skilled Survivors. Afghan Exiles and Transnational History-Making from Below

Release date: 2023-04

This article examines multiple entanglements of Afghan exiles’ biographies in West Germany with Cold War- and contemporary history. The life stories of six men who have been residing in Germany since the 1970s but were physically and cognitively highly mobile in their engagement for change in Afghanistan highlight the role of human agency in transnational history-making. The analysis shows that during the time of intense engagement connecting West Germany and Afghanistan, their lives became truly transnational, and the vernacular cosmopolitanism they practised has shaped transnational history from below. While all six life stories mirror transgressive biographies in connection with wartime events and differ from the global cosmopolitanism of elites, these life courses are neither standardised nor linear. The findings point to three types of transgressive biographies—skilled survivors, quietists and masters of crossover—that have preserved the transnational dimension that had been so significant earlier in the exiles’ lives to varying degrees and differed regarding related perceptions of failure, loss and regret.

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