Archive for the ‘PhD’ Category
(This is a joint post by myself, Felix Kuehn and Anand Gopal)
I wouldn’t normally put something like this up on the blog, but after over a year or so of asking around (without success) we’re trying all options.
For several years now, Felix, Anand and I have been collecting old (and new) Taliban documents. Felix and I made a point of finding things that covered pre-2001, and Anand found things post-2001. Some of the research you may have read about on this blog or in books came from this material. For example, the poems written by Talibs in Poetry of the Taliban (published later this year) were all gathered together in this way.
Our collection is pretty wide and comprehensive. I won’t say too much about the kinds of sources we have, but suffice it to say that we have complete collections of most publications and books that the Taliban were associated with (and various other documents/videos/audiotapes). These sources date from the 1980s until the present day.
We are looking — we have been looking — for funds to translate these sources into English and place them (and scans of the originals) online so that researchers and anyone else can access them. Almost none of this material is used (or has been used) in the study of the Taliban (particularly pre-2001) and this project would allow a far deeper understanding.
If you are a donor and are interested in funding this project, please get in touch with me, Felix or Anand at the ‘Contact Alex’ section on the right.
…and we’re back here again. I know I said I’d hold off on posting, but these charts will never make their way into the final report so I’ll just put them up here. These are word clouds of the common terms used in sets of ISAF press releases. As with all word clouds, the larger the word, the more times it occurs in the press releases for the particular period. This first one covers the entire set (November 2009-May 1st, 2011):
The following images I split up the data into chunks. The first four months: (Nov 2009-Feb 2010 inclusive)
This covers March-June 2010 (inclusive:
This covers July-October 2010 (inclusive):
This covers November 2010-February 2011 (inclusive):
And this covers the last two months (March and April 2011):
Long-standing readers of this blog will know that I have been working (together with my colleague, Felix Kuehn) to get to grips with the nature of the relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda (and the various affiliates of both). To that end, we’ve written a book (‘An Enemy We Created‘) and a summary paper dealing with the post-2001 aspects for the Center on International Cooperation (who funded much of the research).
We reread most of the primary and secondary-source literature on the topic, and while going through compiled long lists of dates, names and places. The key dates from those lists made their way into this timeline. There are fewer entries post-2001 at the moment on the timeline, but I’ll get round to updating that soon hopefully. Please leave any feedback on the timeline in the comments below this post, or send me an email.
You can view the timeline at: www.anenemywecreated.com/timeline/
This timeline was created in Tinderbox, the software that I used for most of my research and database work. I have to thank Mark Bernstein and particularly Mark Anderson for their help with some of the technical issues in coding the site. I’d strongly recommend Tinderbox to researchers, journalists and other ‘information workers’. I’d be lost without it.
For those in London, I’ll be presenting on how I use Tinderbox in my day-to-day research work at a one-day event on May 28. Register here if you’d like to come along.
I was reading in the first volume of Taruskin’s history of music — all right, procrastinating from overdue PhD chapters — and came across this useful and timely reminder:
“Statements and actions in response to real or perceived conditions: these are the essential facts of human history. The discourse, so often slighted in the past, is in fact the story. It creates new social and intellectual conditions to which more statements and actions will respond, in an endless chain of agency. The historian needs to be on guard against the tendency, or the temptation, to simplify the story by neglecting this most basic fact of all. No historical event or change can be meaningfully asserted unless its agents can be specified; and agents can only be people. Attributions of agency unmediated by human action are, in effect, lies — or at the very least, evasions. They occur inadvertently in careless historiography (or historiography that has submitted unawares to a master narrative), and are invoked deliberately in propaganda (i.e., historiography that consciously colludes with a master narrative).” (Richard Taruskin, The Oxford History of Western Music, vol 1, p.xviii)
It’s good to be reminded of this when thinking about most things, but especially when discussing ideology and influence with regard to the war in Afghanistan and the identity of the various groups fighting. People have thoughts; ideas do more than just ‘emerge’. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else, but I think writing on the nature of the Taliban, for example, could become a lot clearer if we stuck to the agency of real people rather than abstractions.