Five Afghan boys outside in Ghazni

Scholars working on Afghanistan and its diaspora - Reading list

This article was written by Compiled by Sanaa Alimia
This article was published on

If you would like to get to know some of the best scholars writing in English and working on Afghanistan and its diaspora, read on. The list below builds from a Twitter thread I started in August 2021.

The aim of it has been twofold. Firstly, to focus on scholarship that moves beyond the usual tropes of "terror", “Af-Pak” and “women need saving”. Unfortunately, these tropes continue to be central to constructions of Afghanistan and its society today. Secondly, the list has tried to give emphasis and space to scholars from Afghanistan and its diaspora.

Below each scholar I list one key recommend read or watch, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Find out more about them by checking out their academic profile pages or follow them on Twitter.


Khadija Fatima Abbasi, Graduate Institute, Geneva.

Anthropologist with a focus on Afghan Hazaras.

Recommended read: There is Death in Immobility (with Alessandro Monsutti.)


Jawan Shir Rasikh, University of Pennsylvania.

Medieval historian who also forays into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Recommended read: “The Many Lives of a Medieval Muslim Scholar: An Introduction to Life and Times of Minhaj Siraj al-Din Juzjani, 1193-1260 CE.”

Twitter: @jawan_shir


Shahram Khosravi, University of Stockholm.

Ethnographic work that examines migration and deportation of Afghans in Europe, against a backdrop of racism; Afghans in Iran.

Recommended read: “Deportation as a Way of Life for Young Afghans,”


Anila Daulatzai, Berkeley.

Socio-cultural anthropologist with a focus on women, health, aid, and imperialism.

Recommended read: The Discursive Occupation of Afghanistan.


Sahar Ghumkhor, University of Melbourne.

Critical race theory, gender, imperialism.

Recommended read: The Political Psychology of the Veil

Twitter: @theprimalplot


Shah Mahmoud Hanifi, James Madison University.

Leading historian of Afghanistan with a focus on British colonial impacts on Afghanistan.

Recommended read: Mountstuart Elphinstone in South Asia: Pioneer of British Colonial Rule


Paniz Musawi Natanzi, Independent researcher.

Political Scientist bringing together art, gender, and geopolitics.

Recommended read: "Art, Geopolitics, and Gendering Afghanistan." 


Zuzanna Olszewska, Oxford University.

Leading anthropologist of Afghans in Iran.

Recommended read: “A Desolate Voice”: Poetry and Identity among Young Afghan Refugees in Iran.

Twitter: @zolszewska1


Orzala Nemat, AREU, Kabul.

Leading policy discussions and research in Afghanistan at the AREU, Kabul.

Recommended read: Local Governance in the Age of Liberal Interventionism :

Governance Relations in the Post-2001 Afghanistan.

Twitter: @Orzala


Julie Billaud, Graduate Institute, Geneva.

Anthropologist and co-founder of Allegra Laboratory. Focus on conflict, gender, and aid in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Recommended read: Kabul Carnival: Gender Politics in Post War Afghanistan

Twitter: @JulieBillaud


James Caron, SOAS.

Historian who uses Pashto sources. Temporal scope weaves together pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial eras.

Recommended read: Pashto Border Literature as Geopolitical Knowledge

Twitter: @James_M_Caron


Saadia Toor, City University New York.

International political economy, culture, imperialism, and gender. Also works on Pakistan.

Recommended read: Imperialist Feminist Redux.

Twitter: @pagalpanchi


Aziz Hakimi, Chr. Michelsen Institute.

Political sociologist examining masculinities, marriage practices, and war and state formation.

Recommended read: ‘Good Men Don’t Elope’: Afghan Migrant Men’s Discourses on Labour Migration, Marriage and Masculinity.

Twitter: @AzizHakimi


Kaweh Kerami, SOAS.

Democracy and electoral politics in Afghanistan.

Recommended read: The Taliban: What Could its Return to Power Mean.

Twitter: @KawaKerami


Wazmah Osman, Temple University.

Media and film in Afghanistan. Documentary film includes: Postcards from Tora Bora.

Recommended read: Television and the Afghan Culture Wars.

Twitter: @Wazhmah


Zareena Aslami, Michigan State University.

Afghanistan, race, and empire in the nineteenth century.

Recommended read: Victorian Afghanistan, the Iron Amir, and the Poetics of Marginal Sovereignty.

Twitter: @zarenaaslami


Ahmad Qais Munhazim, Thomas Jefferson University.

Race, gender, critical international relations.

Recommended read: Rainbow in the Sky of War.

Twitter: @QaisMunhazim


Faiz Ahmed, Brown University.

Historian situating Afghanistan conversation with British and Ottoman influence.

Recommended read: Afghanistan Rising.


Niamutllah Ibrahimi, La Trobe University.

Citizenship, international relations, ethnic relations.

Recommended read: The Hazaras and the Afghan State.

Twitter: @IbrahimiNiamat


Fatima Mojaddedi, UC Davis.

Ethnography, violence, critical social theory, psychoanalysis in Afghanistan.

Recommended read: The Closing Heart, Mouth, Word.


Marya Hannun, Georgetown University.

Recommended read: From Kabul to Cairo and Back Again: The Afghan Women’s Movement and Early 20th Century Transregional Transformations.

Twitter: @MaryaHannun


Munazza Ebtikar, Oxford University.

Historian with a focus on historiography, memory, and gender.

Recommended read: The United States and the Detriments of Cavalier Colonial Knowledge Production on Afghans and Afghanistan.

Twitter: @mebtikar


Rabia Khan, SOAS.

British Hazaras, identity, diaspora, cultural studies.

Recommended read: Hazaras in Popular Culture.

Twitter: @RabiaLatif91


Mejgan Massoumi, Stanford University.

Connective histories of media, sound, and popular culture.

Recommended read: Leaving the War on Terror A Progressive Alternative to Counter-Terrorism Policy.

Twitter: @MejganMassoumi


Sherine Ebadi, Berkeley.

Geography, race, imperial formations in Afghanistan, feminism.

Recommended watch:


Azeta Hatef, Emerson College.

Journalism, media, and diaspora.

Recommended read: “What My Parents Have Taught Me About Distance, Loss, and Uncertainty.”

Twitter: @AzetaHatef

Zohra Saed, Brooklyn.

Literature and poetry. Writer.

Afghan American Literature.

Recommended read: One Story, Thirty Stories.

Twitter: @ZohraSaed 


Muska Dastageer, American University, Kabul.

Peace and conflict; gender.

Recommended read: To Success, Intra-Afghan Talks Must Defere to the Non-ideal.

Twitter: @DastageerMuska


Nura Sedique, Princeton University.

Muslims in the United States.

Twitter: @nuraphd


Ahmed Rashid Salim, Berkeley.

Islam, modern Afghanistan.

Twitter: @Ahmad_R_Salim


Orfan Badakshani, Delft University.

Diaspora and ethnic studies. Also a poet.

Recommended read: Ethnic Conflict within Diaspora.

Twitter: @OfranBadakhshan 


Haroun Rahimi, American University Afghanistan.

Law; finance; trade; formal and informal economies; institutions; politics.

Recommended read: To Sue or Not to Sue: How Afghan Merchants Strategically Chose to Use or Avoid Courts.

Twitter: @harounrahimi1


Lida Amiri, University of Liverpool.

Arts; poetry; film; literature. Also a poet.

Recommended read: Refugees in Literature, Film, Art, and Media: Perspectives on the Past and Present.


Leila C. Nader, University of Rochester.

Ecologies; environmental history; diaspora;

Recommended read: Life After Ruins: Ruderal Ecologies, Afghan Diaspora, & Another Anthropocene.

Twitter: @AfghanVegan


Ali A Olomi, Penn State University.

Historian, commentator, and religious studies

Recommended read: Who is Mullah Hasan Akhund? What does the Taliban’s choice of interim prime minister mean for Afghanistan?

Twitter: @aaolomi


Emran Feroz, Independent writer.

Afghanistan, contemporary affairs,

Recommended read: Der Längste Kreig [The Longest War]

Twitter: @Emran_Feroz


Nushin Arbabzadeh, Independent writer.

Afghan media—historical and contemporary—, literature, women’s rights.

Recommended read: Afghan Rumour Bazar.


Zubeda Jalalzai, Rhode Island College.

Literature; post-colonial literature; transnational literature; travelogues.

Recommended read: Globalizing Afghanistan: Terrorism, War, and the Rhetoric of Nation Building (with David Jeferees.)


Marjan Wardaki, Yale University.

Historian; intellectual histories of migration; making linkages between Afghanistan and Germany.

Recommended read: Rediscovering Afghan Fine Arts: The Life of an Afghan Student in Germany, Abdul Ghafur-Brechna*


Hakeem Naim, North Arizona University.

Historian; state formation; linking Afghanistan to the Ottoman empire in the nineteenth century.

Recommended watch: Reflections on Biden for Afghanistan.

Twitter: @HakeemNaim1


Nassim Majidi, Tufts University and Samuel Hall Institute.

Deportation, migration, human rights.

Recommended read: Deportees Lost at “Home”: Post-deportation Outcomes in Afghanistan.

Twitter: @nassimmajidi


Zahra Nader, York University.

Journalism; media; gender.

Recommended read: Can Facebook Usher in Political Inclusion for Afghan Women

Twitter: @ZahraYusufi


Nichola Khan, Brighton University.

Social anthropologist focusing on Afghans in the UK.

Recommended read: Arc of the Journeyman: Afghan Migrants in England.

Twitter: @NicholaKhan


Elaheh Rostami-Povey, SOAS.

Afghan women, post-2001 invasion, feminism, empire.

Recommended read: Afghan Women: Identity and Invasion.


Francesca Fuoli, Bern Universität.

Historian of colonial-era Afghanistan.

Recommended read: Colonialism and State-building in Afghanistan: Anglo-Afghan Co-operation in the Institutionalisation of Ethnic Difference, 1869-1900.

Twitter: @FranFuoli


Sana Haroon, University of Massachusets, Boston.

Historian focusing on the Indo-Afghanistan (now Afghanistan-Pakistan) borderlands.

Recommended read: Frontier of Faith.

Twitter: @sun_haroon


Ayesha Khan, Collective for Social Science Research Karachi.

A number of publications, including research papers produced with the CSSR on Afghan nationals in Pakistan.

Recommended read: Afghan Refugee Women's Experience of Conflict and Disintegration.


Sab Gul Khattak, Sustainable Development Policy Institue, Islamabad.

Feminism, geopolitics, women in Afghanistan

Recommended read: Living on the Edges: Afghan Women and Refugee Camp Management in Pakistan.

Twitter: @SabGulKhattak


Sahil Warsi.

Anthropologist with a focus on Afghans in Delhi, India.

Recommended read: Being and belonging in Delhi: Afghan individuals and communities in a global city.

Twitter: @sahilwarsi


Max Drephal, University of Suffolk.

Historian, with a focus on independence era-Afghanistan; engaged with theories of coloniality.

Recommended read: Afghanistan and the Coloniality of Diplomacy.

Twitter: @MaxDrephal


Timothy Nunan, Freie Universität, Berlin.

Historian of Afghanistan with a focus on Soviet archives.

Recommended read: Humanitarian Invasion: Global Development in Cold War Afghanistan. 

Twitter: @timothynunan 


Martin Sökefeld, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

Anthropologist. Recent work on deportations in Germany.

Recommended read: "Nations Rebound: German Politics of Deporting Afghans."


Ceri Oeppen, University of Sussex.

Geographer examining human migration and refugees and state-led policies of hostility and migration management.

Recommended read: ‘Leaving Afghanistan! Are You Sure?’ European Efforts to Deter Potential Migrants Through Information Campaigns.

Twitter: @Oeppen


Alessandro Monsutti, Graduate Institute, Geneva.

Anthropologist with a focus on Afghan migration across Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Europe.

Recommended read: War and Migration.


Robert Crews, Stanford University.

Historian with a focus on Afghanistan, including on nation-building, media, and identity.

Recommended read: Under the Drones (with Shazad Bashir)

Twitter: @RobertCrews22


Nivi Manchanda, Queen Mary’s University London.

Afghanistan in colonial and neo-colonial and gendered imaginings.

Recommended read: Queering the Pashtun.


Benjamin Hopkins, John Hopkins University.

Leading historian of Afghanistan, who incorporates post-colonial critiques of empire Recommended read: The Frontier Crimes Regulation and Frontier Governmentality.


Robert Nichols, Stockton University.

Historian of Pashtun territories, migration, and governance.

Recommended read: A History of Pashtun Migration 1775-2006.


Elizabeth Leake, University of Leeds.

Historian with a focus on decolonisation and borders in South Asia.

Recommended read: The Defiant Border.

Twitter: @elisabeth_leake


Abubakr Siddique, Independent journalist.

Contemporary focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan and questions of Pashtun identity and politics.

Recommended read: "The Pashtun Question."

Twitter: @sid_abu


Nile Green, UCLA.

Historian with a focus on religion, Sufism, South Asia.

Recommended read: The Afghan Discovery of Buddha: Civilizational History and the Nationalizing of Afghan Antiquity.


Alex Strick van Linschoten and Feliex Kuehn.

Co-authors that centre on conflict, geopolitics, and the Taliban.

Recommended read: Poetry of the Taliban (with Felix Keuhn).

Twitter: @strickvl and @felixkuehn


Ping-hsiu Alice Lin, Harvard University.

Socio-cultural anthropologist with interests in commodity chains, artisanship and labor, environmental colonialism and knowledge production, and China-Pakistan relations.

Recommended read: Precious Economies: Gems and Value-making from the Afghan-Pakistan Borderlands.

Twitter: @alibinglin


Sanaa Alimia, Aga Khan University, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations.

Recommended read: Performing the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border through Refugee ID Cards.

Political Scientist with a focus on Afghan nationals in Pakistan; geopolitics, surveillance; urbanity; and informal economies.

Twitter: @sanaaalimia


Paolo Novak, SOAS.

Migration; asylum; constructions of “deserving” refugees; theoretical conceptualisations on migration.

Recommended read: Place and Afghan Refugees: A Contribution to Turton.

Twitter: @Terminalias


Nasreen Ghufran, University of Peshawar.

International relations; regional politics; refugees.

Recommended read: Afghans in Pakistan: A 'Protracted Refugee Situation.


Daryl Li, University of Chicago.

Anthropologist; war, law, migration, empire, and race with a focus on transregional linkages between the Middle East, South Asia, and the Balkans.

Recommended read: Taking the Place of Martyrs: Afghans and Arabs Under the Banner of Islam.

Twitter: @dcli


Simon Wolfgang Fuchs, University of Freiburg.

Global Islam; Shia thought; South Asia and the Middle East.

Recommended read:  Glossy Global Leadership: Unpacking the Multilingual Religious Thought of the Afghan Jihad

Twitter: @Simon_W_Fuchs


Nick Cullather, Indiana University

Historian of the Cold War.

Recommended read: Damming Afghanistan: Modernization in a Buffer State.

Other accounts


AREU, Kabul.

Think tank based out of Kabul.

Twitter: @AREUAfghanistan


Afghan Analysts Network, Kabul.

Think tank based out of Kabul.

Twitter: aanAfgh


Afghan Historians.

Twitter: @AfghanHistorian