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A Global History of Political Thought at Kabul University, 1964-1992

Kyara Klausmann

In the turbulent times between 1964 and 1992, Kabul University was the center of political thought in Afghanistan, the place where political groups were founded and confronted with each other, and the place where, despite the ever-existent censorship, opinions could be expressed relatively openly. This research project aims to investigate change and development of political thought during the “experiment of democracy” in the 1960s, the unstable political situation and the end of the monarchy in the 1970s, the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s until the beginning of the war of the Mujahidin in the 1990s. It seeks to identify different political groups active in students’ unions, discussions, and demonstrations and to answer the following question: How did the young elites of Afghanistan envision a positive future for their country? Thus, this project analyzes how conflicting ideas of progress and modernity evolved among the intellectuals of Afghanistan’s society in order to show that these ideas should be considered as a constant element of the conflicts in the periods mentioned.
Most historical and political analyses see Afghans merely as executers of international conflicts or as predominantly driven by tribal feuds and religious fanaticism. This project, instead, consciously chooses Afghan students as its main actors. At the same time, it shows how they engaged with inspirations and role models from abroad: How did ideas coming from the US and Western Europe, the Soviet Union, China, Muslim majority states, and national-liberal movements inspire the young elite in Afghanistan? Looking at the development of political thought in Afghanistan from this perspective, a complex and transnational net of conflicting ideas appears, which is vital to the understanding of Afghanistan’s recent history.