Writing the Nation in Afghanistan

A Comparison of School Textbooks for History and Patriotism (2001–2021)

Responding to the observation that educational media play a significant role in shaping the world views, identity concepts and convictions of future citizens, the project adds to these debates with a systematic analysis and careful contextualisation of accounts on nation, state and modernity as conveyed in textbooks for history and patriotism published between 2001 and 2021.

  • Aims

    The project aims to render visible the traces that historiographic and political discourses have left in textbook accounts as well as to identify ambivalence and vagueness as reflections of societal contestations.

  • Methodology

    The project focuses on the following research questions:

    1. Have textbooks contributed to creatinga diverse society?
    2. Are they reflective of controversies in Afghan history?
    3. Do they take up debates on culturally adequate forms of governance? 
    4. Have authors dealt with post-colonial criticisms of Western concepts of state, nation, and modernity being applied to the history of non-Western societies?

    The project is based on an analysis of three types of sources. (i) All history and patriotism textbooks published between 2001 and 2021 will be subjected to a systematic analysis. (ii) Historiographic controversies on key issues of Afghan history as reflected in academic literature published within and outside Afghanistan will be reconstructed in order to identify the traces they have left in educational media. (iii) International debates on the impact of post-colonial theory on concepts of (national) belonging, social and political organisation as well as history in post-imperial contexts will be scrutinised in order to develop a critical basis from which textbook accounts can be assessed.

  • Results

    The results will be published as a monograph. Also, the publication of two peer-reviewed articles is planned.

    The first article titled ‘Writing of history and organization of time in the narrative of Afghanistan (A comparison of school history textbooks (1998-2021))’ has been submitted to the Journal of Educational Media and Memory Studies (JEMMS) for publication. The article investigates school history textbooks of Afghanistan, asking how does conceptualization of temporality, history, and the use of calendars, take place and how it penetrates the construction of the national narrative. The textbooks in question include three generations of history textbooks published and taught between the 1998–2021 period under the Islamic Emirate of the Taliban (first-generation textbook) and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (second and third-generation textbooks) respectively. The findings show that the first and second-generation textbooks are inclined toward a rather religious conception of time and history while the third-generation textbooks are inclined toward a rather secular progressive conception of time and history. The use of calendars in the textbooks indicates narrative and genre hybridity as well as ideological preferences.

    The second article comparing history and patriotism textbooks is currently being drafted.

Project Team