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The History of Anthropometry and Fingerprinting in Colonial South Asia  

Mira Rai Waits

In the late 19th century, an obsession with identifying and classifying people emerged in the West. Efforts to develop lines of inquiry to support this obsession were common; visual technologies were harnessed and invented to further the acquisition of knowledge about human identity and classification. Anthropometry, the measurement of the human individual to understand physical variation, was used as the foundation for Bertillonage, a system designed to identify recidivists through a standardized collection of images and data sets about the human body. Consequently, anthropometry came to be associated with broader efforts to manage crime in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as law enforcement touted the potential of visual technologies and their related archival systems as mechanisms for improving criminal identification. This interest in visual technologies and criminal identification coupled with the colonial exploration of South Asia in the 19th century led to anthropometric studies of South Asian peoples. Some of these studies were tied to institutions of colonial law enforcement, such as the police or prison system, but others, including the late 19th-century study of the people of the Andaman Islands, demonstrate how the broader obsession with human identification and classification was tied to efforts to study race as a measurable subject. Colonial civil servants also turned to visual technologies for assistance with the management of colonial subjects. In 1858, Sir William James Herschel, the chief administrator of the Hooghly district of Bengal, after observing a native practice where fingermarks were used as marks of authenticity for the illiterate, began to experiment with taking handprints and fingerprints as identifying images. Scottish doctor Henry Faulds had contemporaneously expressed a similar interest in studying fingerprints after observing sample prints on ancient pottery while serving as a medical missionary in Japan. Herschel shared his findings with Sir Francis Galton, the founder of eugenics, who, after reviewing Herschel’s findings, posited that fingerprints were permanent visual markers of identity. Following this observation, Sir Edward Richard Henry, inspector-general of police of Bengal, along with police sub-inspectors Chandra Bose and Azizul Haque, developed a classification system for using fingerprints to identify recidivist criminals. This system was exported from colonial India to Britain and then on to police organizations globally.

Article

Reframing Ancient Afghanistan: Pre-Historic and Early Historic Spatial Connections to the Saka-Yuezhi Period (1st Century CE)  

Henri-Paul Francfort

Afghanistan has remained a crossroad of civilizations since its origins. Despite having no access to the sea, Afghanistan, in both the north and south of the high mountainous range of the Hindu Kuch, benefits from large fluvial arteries from the Amu Darya system in the north and the Helmand system in the south, along with their tributaries. This benefit brings opportunities for irrigation and for communications. The mountains, especially the Badakhshan and Pamir mountainous nodes, contain important mineral resources, including gold and lapis lazuli. Because Eurasia is an open space, Afghanistan had relations with external regions, groups, nations, cultures, as early as the Paleolithic and Neolithic (especially Kel’teminar) periods. During the Chalcolithic period (ca. 3000–2500 bce), the maps of exchange networks encompassed Iran, Pakistani Baluchistan, Tajikistan, and the steppe world. This is the period of pottery, metallurgy, and glyptics related to economic and social development: a proto-urban phase. This broad network strengthened and grew during the Bronze Age (ca. 2500–1400 bce) with the Oxus civilization, covering the north of the country (Bactria and Dashly) and neighboring regions (parts of Northeast Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan), and connected to the southern regions (Pakistani Baluchistan). During this period, Indus colonies settled in northeastern Afghanistan (Shortughaï). The territories of Afghanistan were developing as “urban” settlements where arts and crafts reached international high standards, but in a specific socioeconomic model without large cities and no writing system, and with an enormous network of trade and exchanges (semiprecious stones, metals, and possibly camels), connected to Elamite, Akkadian-Ur III, and Levantine arts. It was a sort of twin of the Indus civilization. It collapsed around 1800–1500 bce possibly because of the effect of climate change and coming of steppe peoples. During the Iron Age (ca. 1400– 500 BCE), changes in pottery and craftsmanship indicate an economic decline, when Iranian tribes of horsemen may have migrated coming from the steppes and early phases of Zoroastrianism appear (in Bactria, Chorasmia, or Sistan). “International” trade possibly continued (lapis and metals). A new “imperial” phase occurred with the inclusion of the Afghan territory in the Persian Achaemenid empire by Cyrus the Great (ca. 545–540 bce). A number of satrapies with capital cities were located in Afghanistan (Bactria, Arachosia, Aria, etc.). The ancient trade and administrative roads functioned and were controlled by the imperial power. With the conquest of Alexander the Great (ca. 330 bce), the empire fell into new hands. An important Greek colonization, especially in the north, expanded to the north of Amu Darya with the Seleucid and Greco-Bactrian kingdoms, founding cities and establishing their cultures. India, after the establishment of strong ties with the Indian Maurya dynasty, came also under Greek rule: the Indo-Greeks emerged after 180 bce. Around 145–130 bce, the Greek power disappeared in Bactria and newcomers from the steppes, the Saka (Scythians) and Yuezhi (other nomads, predecessors of the Kushans), installed their domination, preparing the advent of the Kushan empire’s stabilization in the 1st century ce. The dialectics between external and local archaeological remains is a difficult question to tackle; often the research focuses on the external origins of cultural elements. For example, the languages and the scripts (Aramaic, Greek, and Indian) belong to the external ruler groups rather than to the autochthonous cultures. Indeed, in the Early History of Afghanistan, it is almost impossible to clearly define any “autochthonous” archaeological remains, unless we consider the preceding period as being localadmit . In sum, without being the center of these “empires”, except during the two centuries of the Greco-Bactrian, but even then not, if we consider a larger “Hellenistic koinè”, Afghanistan was, from its origins, a meeting place for many cultures and civilizations, and it remained an important part of external politico-cultural entities for millennia—the crossroads of Eurasian civilizations.

Article

Bukharan Trade Networks in Eurasia  

Erika Monahan

Bukharan trade networks functioned as significant conduits to the movement of goods and people throughout Eurasia. Evidence of trade activities of Bukharans in the early modern period extends from the northern shores of Russia, east to China, and south to the Caspian, Iran, and the Indian subcontinent. In the Russian Empire Bukharan merchants became a privileged diaspora community that played a significant role in commercial life of Siberia. In Siberia theyoften maintained commercial and religious ties with their Central Asian communities; they seemed in some cases to established close ties with the Siberian Tatar community as well. Bukharan merchants were not necessarily from the city of Bukhara per se, but rather, probably due to the prestige of Bukhara, the Russian imperial state applied the moniker Bukharan (Bukharetin–singular; Bukhartsy–plural) to merchants that hailed from a variety of Central Asian cities and towns. In Siberia, some Bukharans served the Russian imperial state not only as merchants but also in the service of Russian imperial commercial and diplomatic administration. They served the Russian imperial state in various roles, includingin the customs administration and diplomacy. Commercial and spiritual reasons brought this diaspora community to Siberia. While the Russian state courted Bukharan immigration to Siberia for the economic benefits they could bring, Bukharan immigration to Siberia predated the Russian conquest. Bukharans came as proselytizers to Islam at the behest of Siberian Khan Kuchum, if not earlier. State policy toward them reflected a larger state economic strategy of building and maintaining an expanding empire and the army necessary to the project through activist commercial policies. Bukharans played integral roles in Siberian life yet maintained a distinct Bukharan identity. While their integrated economic life resembled that of Russians enough to elicit strong pressures to rescind their tax advantages, Bukharans defended their rights before the state and before their neighbors with savvy and enjoyed various tax privileges into the early 19th century. Although Bukharans lost market share to the Armenians in Astrakhan and the establishment of direct Russian involvement in theRusso–China trade undermined their role in that trade, Bukharan trade networks continued to be an important part of Eurasian commerce. Bukharans may have increased the share of European wares in their trade portfolios, for example. . Meanwhile, Siberian and transit Bukharans continued to cooperate generations after Siberian Bukharans had been settled in the Russian Empire. In short, Bukharans provided simultaneously adaptive to their new homeland and changing market conditions while, at the same time, maintaining the mercurial distinctness of a mercantile diasporic community. Despite their long-standing roots and presence in the Russian Empire, the imperial state counted them as a distinct population as late as the empire-wide census of 1897. That Bukharans were only subsumed into the category of Tatars by the Soviet state testifies to their enduring presence as a distinct group in the Russian Empire.

Article

Karakorum  

Timothy May

Karakorum (Qaraqorum, Qara Qorum, Kara Korum, Khara Khorum, Kharkhorin), located in the Orkhon Valley of Mongolia, served as the capital of the Mongol Empire from 1235 to 1260, or the period of the United Mongol Empire. It must be considered an “implanted” city; that is, a city built and populated with an immediate population rather than one that grew and evolved over time. Although Chinggis Khan (1162–1227) used the Orkhon Valley as a campaign headquarters in the later years of his career, his capital, Avarga, was situated in the Onan-Kerülen basin, which was also his homeland. Not until the reign of his son, Ögödei Qa’an (r. 1229–1241), the second ruler of the Mongol Empire, did the true city of Karakorum appear. While the court remained mobile and moved periodically through the Orkhon Valley, the city of Karakorum served as a constant destination for merchants, missionaries, diplomats, and others who sought to interact with the Mongol court. With a population of perhaps ten thousand people within the walled area, Karakorum could not compare with the metropolises of China nor Baghdad. It served its purpose and in some ways was perhaps the most cosmopolitan city of the 13th century. With the ascension of Qubilai Qa’an to the Mongol throne, Karakorum’s significance dwindled as Qubilai had constructed a new city called Daidu (Ch. Dadu) to serve as his capital in northern China. Having discovered the vulnerabilities of Karakorum during his rise to power, Qubilai determined to ensure the security of his reign by moving the capital to his domain in North China. The move relegated Karakorum to a provincial town. It remained so, though Karakorum experienced a brief revival as a capital after 1368 with the Northern Yuan Empire. In 1380, Ming armies sacked the city. The destruction was enough to end Karakorum’s existence as a city. Construction of the Erdene Zuu Buddhist monastery in 1585 revived the area’s importance. Using materials from the ruins of Karakorum, the monastery was built on the site of Ögödei Qa’an’s palace. The modern city of Kharkorin is adjacent to the monastery and site of medieval Karakorum and houses a museum dedicated to the historical city, while archaeological work continues on the site.

Article

The Wakhan Quadrangle  

Hermann Kreutzmann

The Wakhan Quadrangle emerged as a geopolitical constellation and situation in which a less important area—in terms of demographic size, political power, and economic wealth—can be perceived as a central arena for the ambitions of imperial powers. Since the second half of the 19th century, four major players participated in the competition as actors with competing stakes. Afghanistan, China, Great Britain, and Tsarist Russia turned to each other with spatial interests of expansion. The immediate protagonists were involved with or influencing one of the regional actors: Badakhshan, Xinjiang, Kashmir, and the Emirate of Bokhara are four representatives closing in on Wakhan, which still had maintained its autonomy as a quasi-independent principality in an economically marginal and remote high-mountain location with non-demarcated and shifting limits of authority. Overall political tensions grew during the hot phase of the Great Game. Upon the precautionary move into exile by its last ruler, Mir Ali Mardan Shah, Wakhan became an object of bargaining in the imperial endgame before international boundaries were delineated by the supreme powers. Wakhan ended up as a divided territory between Afghanistan and tsarist Russia, functioned as a spatial buffer between British India and its successors against Central Asian neighbors since, and its limits became a hermetic boundary between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Since delineating the boundaries, only the Afghan section is easily visible on maps and commonly perceived as the Wakhan strip.

Article

Indus Valley: Early Commercial Connections with Central and Western Asia  

Dennys Frenez

The study of commercial and cultural connections between the Greater Indus Valley and other regions of Central and Western Asia occupies a central role in the scholarly research about the Indus Tradition. Interregional trade was already established in the Indus River basin during the Neolithic period in the 6th millennium bce. However, from the early 3rd millennium bce, the Indus (Harappan) merchants and craftspeople contributed to defining, promoting, and regulating long-distance, cross-cultural trade exchanges throughout this entire region. Indus-type and Indus-related artifacts were found over a large and differentiated ecumene, encompassing Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau, Mesopotamia and the northern Levant, the Persian Gulf, and the Oman Peninsula. The discovery of Indus trade tools (seals, weights, and containers) across the entire Middle Asia, complemented by information from Mesopotamian cuneiform texts, shows that entrepreneurs from the Indus Valley regularly ventured into these regions to transact with the local socioeconomic and political entities. However, Indus artifacts were also exchanged beyond this core region, eventually reaching as far the Nile River valley, Anatolia, and the Caucasus. On the contrary, only a handful of exotic trade tools and commodities have been found at sites in the Greater Indus Valley. The success of Indus trade in Central and Western Asia did not only rely on the dynamic entrepreneurialism of Indus merchants and the exotic commodities they offered. Specific products were proactively designed and manufactured in the Indus Valley to fulfill the particular needs of foreign markets, and Indus craftspeople moved beyond their native cultural sphere adapting their distinctive productions to the taste of foreign elites or reworking indigenous models. The adoption of specific seals and iconographies to regulate external trade activities suggests a conscious attempt at implementing a coordinated supraregional marketing strategy adopting shared rules and procedures, with observable globalizing impacts in various contexts of Central and Western Asia.

Article

Objects and Material Cultures in Afghanistan, c. 100–1500 CE  

Alka Patel

During the first 1.5 millennia of the Common Era (c. 100–1500 ce), the multiple cultural geographies constituting the contemporary nation-state of Afghanistan were collectively a place of significant and enduring encounters among traditions and lifeways from across Eurasia. Just as migrating and settling populations contributed new ways of believing and making to Afghanistan’s already rich socio-religious tapestry, objects that arrived through trade and pilgrimage also acted as conveyors of ideas originating elsewhere, often combining with existing traditions and resulting in innovative iconographies (visual content) and styles (methods of depiction, visual languages). An examination of Afghanistan through its objects and their material cultures during these centuries is especially rewarding, as this approach illustrates the multidirectional connections between Afghanistan and its Eurasian neighbors near and far. In turn, these transregional connections came to shape religions, languages, political systems, and other cultural aspects not only of Afghanistan but also of other contiguous areas throughout the first 2 millennia ce.

Article

Trade, Buddhism, and the Kushan Connection: Exchange across the Pamir Knot and the Making of the Silk Roads, 2nd Century bce to 5th Century CE  

Tomas Larson Høisæter

The history of contact and exchange across the mountain ranges radiating out from the Pamir knot, separating the three regions of Central Asia, Inner Asia, and Northwestern India, can be traced far back into prehistory, seen in the movements of languages, crops, and animals. From around the 2nd century bce onward, however, these connections steadily grew in intensity. New political connections were drawn across the mountains by the rise of the Kushan Empire in Central Asia, as they came to control much of Northwestern India and exert a significant influence in Inner Asia. Around the same time, Buddhism was spreading northward from Northwestern India into both Central and Inner Asia, bringing with it several innovations and practices that would come to shape these two regions for almost a millennium. Finally, paralleling these political and cultural developments, economic interaction between the three regions steadily grew, with both merchants and large quantities of goods moving between them. These developments feed into one another as local communities grew more and more enmeshed into the growing networks, serving to lay the foundation upon which the fabled Silk Roads could operate.

Article

Humanitarian Aid and Development Assistance in Afghanistan since 1979  

Jennifer L. Fluri and Rachel Lehr

Afghanistan has been on the receiving end of uneven development aid and humanitarian assistance since the early days of the Cold War. Since the onset of war in 1979, a lack of strategic planning has contributed to poorly coordinated and irregularly implemented relief and development aid only worsened by proxy wars of competing empires and the capriciousness of donor governments. Armed conflict, whether between empires or regional and local actors, has been a consistent challenge. The intent of humanitarian assistance is to alleviate suffering and save lives in times of crisis, political or environmental. It is by design reactive, limited in duration and reach. The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has required relief and assistance over a long rather than limited time period. Humanitarian aid worldwide is mostly coordinated through UN agencies and implemented by local affiliates or partners. Development aid is designed to address structural issues in a country in order to improve lives and livelihoods, through improvement programs for infrastructure and economies. Institutional and political reform are part of development aid, often conceived in accordance with the political systems and to meet the goals and interests of donor countries. In Afghanistan, in the past twenty years the problems relating to the distribution of massive amounts of donor funding, the coordination and implementation between local and international Non-Governmental Organizations, the role of the United Nations, and the international military forces, have all hampered success across spatial scales. From 1979 to 1992 humanitarian assistance was also delivered in response to the political goals of donors—in the proxy war between the US and Soviet empires—and from 2001 to 2021 as a primary target of the US-led Global War on Terror. Relief and aid have always suffered from top-down administration, allocation decisions made at the donors’ political whims, decisions about programs and budgets taken at headquarters, or implementation in the field where reality does not meet expectations.

Article

Jadidism, Modernity, and Islamic Communities of Imperial Russia  

Edward J. Lazzerini

A central theme in discussions focused on the evolution of intellectual history among Muslims of the Russian Empire has been that of Jadidism and its relationship to modernity. Unfortunately, many decades of historiography have not served the subject well. Even much of the most recent and serious writing has further confused what many think about Jadidism as a form of modernity with (a) its inherent opposition to classical Islamic theology and practice stemming from fundamental epistemological differences, purposes, and goals that thereby render it indifferent to Islamic reform; (b) its rejection of religion’s tethering of humankind to the “straight path” so as to control the former’s natural dark side and make humans reliant socially rather than merely personally on an invented God; (c) its further rejection of religion’s fixed canons, ostensibly the Word of God, that are made infinite through continuing human exegesis and the containment of free will; and (d) its displeasure with the dream of salvation, rather than the exercise of human will, serving as the antidote to the pointlessness and suffering of life. In total, these aspects of Jadidism place it securely within the realm of modernity.