Global Fiction and Film of the 9/11 Wars
Series: Comparative Cultural Studies
290 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
Imagining Afghanistan examines how Afghanistan has been imagined in literary and visual texts that were published after the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent U.S.-led invasion—the era that propelled Afghanistan into the center of global media visibility. Through an analysis of fiction, graphic novels, memoirs, drama, and film, the book demonstrates that writing and screening “Afghanistan” has become a conduit for understanding our shared post-9/11 condition. “Afghanistan” serves as a lens through which contemporary cultural producers contend with the moral ambiguities of twenty-first-century humanitarianism, interpret the legacy of the Cold War, debate the role of the U.S. in the rise of transnational terror, and grapple with the long-term impact of war on both human and nonhuman ecologies.
Post-9/11 global Afghanistan literary production remains largely NATO-centric insofar as it is marked by an uncritical investment in humanitarianism as an approach to Third World suffering and in anti-communism as an unquestioned premise. The book’s first half exposes how persisting anti-socialist biases—including anti-statist bias—not only shaped recent literary and visual texts on Afghanistan, resulting in a distorted portrayal of its tragic history, but also informed these texts’ reception by critics. In the book’s second half, the author examines cultural texts that challenge this limited horizon and forge alternative ways of representing traumatic histories. Captured by the author through the concepts of deep time, nonhuman witness, and war as a multispecies ecology, these new aesthetics bring readers a sophisticated portrait of Afghanistan as a rich multispecies habitat affected in dramatic ways by decades of war but not annihilated.
Introduction: Global Afghanistan
1. Humanitarian Sublime and the Politics of Pity: Writing and Screening “Afghanistan” Circa 2001
2. Imagining the Soviets: The Faustian Bargain of Khaled Hosseini’s Kabul “Trilogy”
3. Humanitarian Jihad: Unearthing the Contemporary in the Narratives of the Long 1979
4. Witness: Modes of Writing the Disaster
5. The Deep Time of War: Nadeem Aslam and the Aesthetics of the Geologic Turn
6. The Kabubble: The Humanitarian Community Under Scrutiny
Conclusion: The End of an Era
"With power and brilliance, Alla Ivanchikova presents Afghanistan as a screen for competing geopolitical fantasies of the future―socialist, Islamist, and neoliberal. In so doing, she teaches us to see the ongoing disaster of a Cold War militarism that masquerades as twenty-first-century liberal humanism. Imagining Afghanistan is a much-needed contribution to the urgent project of dismantling the anti-communism that shields capitalism and imperialism in the Anthropocene." —Jodi Dean, author of The Communist Horizon
"A powerful study of Afghanistan in the global imaginary, this brilliant and moving book restores an acutely needed balance to narratives about the aftermath of Soviet occupation and the War on Terror. It revives memories of an Afghanistan prior to 1979, a socialist haven of educated, enterprising, and progressive people. In traversing the arc to the twenty-first century, Alla Ivanchikova's book invests Afghanistan with a humanity scarcely found in Western accounts of ruined landscapes trampled upon by bearded fundamentalists." —Debjani Ganguly, author of This Thing Called the World: The Contemporary Novel as Global Form