From Kabuliwala to the Fall of Kabul: Afghanistan in Popular Imagination

From Kabuliwala to the Fall of Kabul: Afghanistan in Popular Imagination

An International Colloquium on October 30-31, 2021

All the zoom links and passwords are included in their respective sections. Please note that we are following the Bangladesh timezone (GMT+6).

Day 1 | October 30, 2021

  • Conference Inauguration | Main Room | 9:00 - 9:50 am

    Welcome Remarks
    Dr. Khan Touseef Osman
    Convener and Research Fellow, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB)

    Afghan Letters to the World

    Address by
    Professor Shamsad Mortuza
    Vice Chancellor (Acting), University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) 

    Address by the Special Guest
    Professor Imran Rahman
    Special Advisor to the ULAB Board of Trustees

    Vote of Thanks
    Arifa Ghani Rahman
    Associate Professor and Head, Department of English and Humanities, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB)

    Zoom Link:
    Meeting ID: 679 2442 5472
    Password: 647294

  • Keynote Speech | Main Room | 10:00 - 10:50 am

    Images of Afghanistan: Through the Cultural Lens

    Professor Himadri Lahiri
    Department of English
    Netaji Subhas Open University (NSOU)

    Professor Shamsad Mortuza
    Vice Chancellor (Acting), University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB)

    Abstract: The recent ‘fall’ of Kabul generated several images of helplessness and desperations of the Afghan citizens in the print and visual media. These depict the intensity of the humanitarian crisis and precarity of the common people. Most of these images have ‘spectacular’ qualities (in the sense Stuart Hall uses the term). They differ in spirit from those we find in Rabindranath Tagore’s “Kabuliwala,” Syed Mujtaba Ali’s Deshe Bideshe and Sabnam and Zaheda Hina’s “Kumkum Theek-thak Hai” (“Kumkum Is Doing Fine”). Tagore’s rendering of father-daughter relationship and inter-community bonding and his stress on universal values find echoes in Mujtaba Ali and Zaheda Hina, although not exactly in the same way. In the age of global warfare and in the context of wider network of terrorism, however, cultural representations of the country have gone through a paradigmatic shift. Ideological ‘mediations’ and ‘gazes’ play a key role in recent representations. While Western involvement in the affairs of Afghanistan has reduced Afghanistan into a playground of global political interests, the non-State actors, both individuals and civic bodies, have taken up the cause of suffering men and women. This presentation will try to trace the trajectory of changes we find in the overall scenario of cultural representation of Afghanistan and will try to reflect on the ethical responsibilities of the global citizens.

    Bio: Himadri Lahiri is former Professor of English, University of Burdwan, West Bengal. Currently, he is Professor of English at the School of Humanities, Netaji Subhas Open University, Kolkata, India. Asia Travels: Pan-Asian Cultural Discourses and Diasporic Asian Literature/s in English (Bolpur: Birutjatiyo Sahitya Sammiloni, 2021) and Diaspora Theory and Transnationalism (Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2019) are his latest books. He writes book reviews for academic journals and newspapers. He also writes poems, occasionally.

    Zoom Link:
    Meeting ID: 679 2442 5472
    Password: 647294

  • Parallel Sessions | Room 1 | 11:00 - 11:50 am

    The Game of Politics: Afghan Context

    Chair: Nadia Rahman, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) | 

    From “Jihad” to “Terrorism”: Revisiting the Anti-Soviet insurgency in Atiq Rahimi’s A Curse on Dostoevsky
    Dr. Md. Abdul Wahab, Samsi College, India

    Abstract: Atiq Rahimi’s A Curse on Dostoevsky is one of the masterpieces among the Post-9/11 novels about Afghanistan. Here, he probes into the Afghan situation between the Soviet Rule and the first insurgency of the Taliban. With “flashes of poetry as well as brilliant irony,” Atiq Rahimi not only narrates an exquisite story, but also intermingles the ideological views of Dostoevsky and Gandhi as well as of Vendanta and Islam on the theme of “peace” as against the theme of “terrorism.” Through the central character Rassoul, which literally means “the messenger,” Rahimi presents an ironical critique of an internal war between the “self”-centred war-lords and the “self-less” mujahideen. Keeping this in context, this paper will attempt to find out the authorial point of view on the theme of “terrorism,” “jihad,” and “peace” in A Curse on Dostoevsky.

    Afghanistan and the Game of Dice in the Mahābhārata
    Himanshu Kumar, University of Delhi, India

    Abstract: The Mahābhārata represents a myriad of strategic and ethical choices that states or human beings might be required to make. It is understandable that there cannot be parallels of the Mahābhārata with the happenings in the 21st century in toto.

    However, the Taliban's takeover of Kabul and the mayhem among the civilian population due to the return of a repressive and orthodox regime as the sitting President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan have uncanny similarities with the infamous game of dice in the Mahābhārata.

    The great powers like the US or Russia either washed their hands of the plight of the common Afghans or actively/tacitly helped the Taliban gain partial legitimacy just like the Kuru elders, Bhishma and Dhritarashtra. The rival superpower China, aspiring to humiliate the US and support the Pakistan-Taliban nexus for her own strategic and economic interests, played the role of master strategist Shakuni, who had vowed to destroy the Kuru clan. Pakistan and the Taliban as Duryodhana and Dushasana not just asserted their victory but also ended up bringing dark clouds over the future of Afghan women back, closely resembling the fate of Draupadi. In my paper, I'm going to shed light on how Hastinapur's (India) relation with Gandhara (Afghanistan) in the Mahābhārata changed the course of future events.

    The Great Game’ in Kipling: Knowledge Production and Colonial Interventions
    Shradha Kochhar, K K Birla Goa Campus, India

    Abstract: The contending territorial ambitions of Colonial Britain and Czarist Russia as it played out in the two empires’ bid to gain strategic control over Afghanistan in the nineteenth century are captured in Rudyard Kipling’s literary depiction of ‘the Great Game’. In texts such as “The Man Who Would Be King”, “The Ballad of East and West”, and Kim, Kipling not only portrays the system of espionage that fueled the Great Game but also explores the latent prejudices, racial hierarchies, and cultural differences that underpinned the colonial project of controlling the region. Scholars have noted that the success of the imperial mission rested on the colonial power’s ability to assimilate and utilize indigenous knowledge systems. The combination of diverse native information orders and the colonizers’ lack of sociocultural engagement with the subcontinent led to lacunae in colonial epistemologies. These gaps were exacerbated as the imperial mission moved from the Indian plains to its northern hills and Afghanistan. My paper explores the selected texts from this perspective of knowledge production in colonial India. It assesses the role knowledge played in the British forays into Afghanistan and how the colonial understanding of the region shaped the political volatility that we associate with Afghanistan today.

    Zoom Link:
    Meeting ID: 679 2442 5472
    Password: 647294

  • Parallel Sessions | Room 2 | 11:00 - 11:50 am

    Gendered Conversations: New Voices, Fresh Perspectives

    Chair: Dr. Khan Touseef Osman, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) | 

    Nuances of the Closet:  Afghanistan, Queer, and the Self in the Reading of Nemat Sadat’s The Carpet Weaver
    Lede E Miki Pohshna, North Eastern Hill University, India

    Abstract: The closet, as a metonymic function, is a complex concept of queer silence. This paper will problematize the concept of the closet in context of Afghanistan, arguing that the closet as a theoretical construction is not sufficient to capture queer silence in Afghanistan. Toward that process, this paper will focus on Nemat Sadat’s novel The Carpet Viewer and examining the queer self though the character of Kanishka and Maihan and the influence of the people and places around them. This paper will argue that unlike the popular Western Imagination of Afghanistan as a closet in itself due to the status of queer sexuality, the closet has no relevance toward the construction of the queer self in Afghanistan. Moreover, such popular imagination only points to the limit of Western theoretical practices when applied to a different situation. By exploring the meaning and function of the closet and its relation to the queer self through the events and emotions in the novel, this paper will argue that the closet is not a monolithic reality but rather as it is a multiplicity of realities, contextual in nature and at the time not as blanketed as it thought to be. 

    Female Masculinity and Tomboyism: A Study of Nadia Hashimi’s The Pearl that Broke its Shell
    Mahamadul Hassan Dhabak,  University of Kalyani, India

    Abstract: R.W. Connell, a renowned critical masculinity theorist, characterizes masculinity as an incoherent object that is constructed and performed in culturally particular ways in his book Masculinities. Masculinity has nothing to do with biological gender. Female masculinity is a distinct form of masculinity that contrasts with traditional masculinity. Every society expects and establishes gender-appropriate behaviors and expressions from and for its people. Afghanistan is a one-of-a-kind country where acceptable gender expression is managed in the context of the country's political power relations. The Pearl that Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi is a compelling story about powerlessness, fate, and freedom. It highlights the condition of Afghan women in excruciating detail. The focus of this paper will be on the portrayal of female masculinity in this novel. This paper also looks at the performativity of tomboyism and bacha posh, which emerge as a reaction to Afghanistan's high preference for sons over daughters. Bacha posh is a tradition where ‘girls dressed as boys’, secret underground of girls whose parents treat one of their daughters as a son.

    Contriteness And Conjugality: A Critique of Susmita Banerjee’s Noesis in Talibanised Afghanistan
    Samapti Saha, Magadh University, India

    Abstract: Recently the Taliban gained power over Afghanistan after two decades. It took everyone around the globe with shock, fear, and terror for their ways of human rights infringement. Social networking sites clamored with women's rights issues. Taliban are mainly known for misogynistic and draconian fatwas and their ‘sexism’ which lead to ‘gender apartheid’. However, Afghan culture is already more gender-biased and the added enforcement of sharia law in Talibanate makes the life of a woman most shocking and devastating. The aim of the study is to explore the inner ferment of a married woman. There is a lack of research on a woman’s condition in the context of international, intercultural, and interreligious love marriage. Overall analysis shows that intercultural love marriage, forced religious conversion, Talibani fatwas, and sexist ideas of the Kabuliwalas made a woman’s conjugality a regretful one. To test the hypothesis, I have selected the writings of Susmita Banerjee as it will give a neutral perspective of Afghan culture both as an insider and outsider. The study will definitely help women come out of their “Prince Charming” husband hunts and opt for feminist partners. Apart from that women need to unlearn the gendering notions that marriage is everything for them.

    The Caged Birds Sing: A Gendered Reading of Nadia Hashimi’s The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When The Moon Is Low
    Aparna Brahmachari, University of Gour Banga, India

    Abstract: For many years now Afghanistan has had to grapple with the woman question. The tribal hetero-patriarchy has ever relegated Afghan women to the invisible margins. No doubt, the recent debates around the rise of the Taliban have fueled the issue. But, years of political conflict, civil wars, insurgency, and war on terrorism have their equal share in the problem. Literature, being one of the strongest mediums of expression, has always raised its concern in this regard. The significant corpus of Afghan literature, written in English as well as native languages, has shed light on this precarious status of women in Afghan society. This paper will attempt to look at the individuality of Afghan women surrounded by the obnoxious chain of place, power, and time. Two of Nadia Hashimi’s novels, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When The Moon Is Low will be taken for a specific case study. The individual position of the women in their respective societies will be in turn a critique of the society. A feminist critical lens will be fundamental to this argument.

    Zoom Link: 
    Meeting ID: 611 2266 0269
    Password: 359478

  • Parallel Sessions | Room 3 | 11:00 - 11:50 am

    Literary Resurfacings: Texts and Contexts

    Chair: Mohammad Mosiur Rahman, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) | 

    Why Know it All: Politics of the Land and its Representation in Zia Haider Rahman’s In the Light of What We Know
    Qazi Arka Rahman, West Virginia University, USA

    Abstract: Zia Haider’s In the Light of What We Know fastidiously follows the view put forth by Italo Calvino regarding the necessity of literary projects being overambitious in ways that subvert stereotypical expectations tattooed onto works emerging from the global anglophone. While Haider’s work has been criticized for contributing to the colonialist tradition of ‘encyclopedism’, it is imperative to note how the novel’s treatment of knowledge problematizes the populist scheme of fetishizing localities like Afghanistan as mere land of continuous conflict and imperial invasions. Thus, this paper draws on postcolonial works on representation, nation, and narration to investigate how In the Light of What We Know simultaneously challenges and contributes to the trope of ‘known’ concerning the representation of Afghanistan in the popular imagination – which has been largely constructed through the eyes of the global North.  In doing so, this paper tries to achieve a better understanding of the representational politics and agency of grand literary projects that Salman Rushdie described as ‘everything novel(s)’.

    Reconfiguring Rabindranath Tagore’s “Kabuliwala” in Zaheda Hina’s “Kumkum is Doing Fine”
    Dr Sanjoy Malik, University of Burdwan, India

    Abstract: In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, America carried out its war on terror largely in Afghanistan and went on bombing Kabul, thereby killing many innocent civilians and leaving many others terribly wounded. The entire Afghanistan virtually became “the war theatre of USA.” It is against this background that Zaheda Hina, an Urdu writer from Pakistan writes her short story “Kumkum is Doing Fine”. In this short story, the narrator Kumkum an Indian Bengali doctor writes a long letter to her grandmother and tells her how the latter’s real life story about her father-figure Rahmat Kabuliwala, a hawker from Kabul has inspired her to devote herself to rendering her service to the wounded in Afghanistan. In the letter she recounts her experience of the “shadows of death on the walls of each house. and lines of blood in each street and bazaar” of Kabul, and expresses her apprehension that Rahmat Kabuliwala’s daughter and her children must have perished in the American bombings. This paper, however, makes an attempt to critically examine how this short story has been a wonderful appropriation of Tagore’s “Kabuliwala”. It also seeks to examine how Kumkum claims herself as a repository of the history of the Rahmat Kabuliwalas and how she considers them to be the prototypes of love and affection transcending the borders of race, religion, or nationality, even in the face of terrible crisis.

    Lessons Learned: Revisiting Afghanistan In In The Light Of What We Know
    Mohammad Zahidul Islam, Daffodil International University, Dhaka

    Abstract: “NGOs alter the public psyche. They turn people into dependent victims and blunt political resistance… They have become the arbitrators, the interpreters, the facilitators… The greater the devastation caused by neoliberalism, the greater the outbreak of NGOs.”
    --- Arundhati Roy, Help that Hinders 

    Since the recent fall of Kabul, critical discourses about Afghanistan have started resurfacing among the political theorists and the world media houses. In this regard, Zia Haider Rahman’s debut novel In the Light of What We Know can also be revisited as it illustrates Afghanistan in the post nine-eleven era which is apparently “scratched and skinned by war”. It also portrays the socio-political condition of the Afghan people who have long been “terrorized, brutalized, maimed and murdered” by the Taliban. The much acclaimed novel draws our attention to the gross political fact that Afghanistan’s economy is run by some NGOs and their advisors and not by a credible administration. Whereas Khaled Husseini sketches a human face of Afghanistan in The Kite Runner, Zia Haider Rahman portrays rather a political image as experienced by the protagonist in Afghanistan. This article aims at revisiting and critically evaluating the image of Afghanistan as portrayed in the mentioned novel.

    “The Garden of Hamza’s Father” Now and Then: Afghanistan’s Quiet Resistance in A Fort of Nine Towers
    Nishat Atiya, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), Dhaka.

    Abstract: Qais Akbar Omar's coming-of-age memoir, A Fort of Nine Towers, attracted international readership after its publication in 2014 primarily because of its poetic, poignant take on an adolescent’s firsthand experience of a 1991 Afghanistan. The much familiar occidental projection of the country as a war-torn ‘global terror hub’ is not its subject matter, rather the life of a local boy growing up with his family and hundreds of other regular children who laughed together, read poetry, shared stories, prayed devoutly, and hoped for a better future in the spacious, idyllic garden-filled compounds of Kabul. Through Omar’s bildungsromanic narrative (though at times biased and naïve), this work aims to identify the turbulent transition Afghanistan itself was going through after the departure of the USSR troops, the subsequent takeovers by Mujahideens and later on the Taliban, followed by a post 9/11 American occupation. Nevertheless, the Afghan civilians adopted quiet modes of communal resistance as identified in the autobiography, i.e.: surviving arbitrary imprisonments, taking a decisive nostalgic refuge in the prewar memories, digging heels in the Afghan strongholds and refusing to leave, weaving new carpets till ‘a new pattern arrives,’ teaching women literature and science in the forbidden era, and embodying a childlike spirit that pursues the simple beauties of country life. Much like the hundred-year-old fort, Qala-e-Noborja which strongly held onto a last surviving tower with its eight other pillars rendered ‘invisible’, the Afghan lives in the memoir quietly wait for the beginning of a new dawn by seeking beauty, stories, memories, adventures, and communal feelings, a world away of imposed bloodshed and violence.

    Zoom Link:
    Session ID: 63517101216
    Session Password: 5678

  • Parallel Sessions | Room 4 | 11:00 - 11:50 am

    Afghanistan on Screen

    Chair: Tanzia Siddiqua, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) | 

    Hollywood, Bollywood and Afghanistan
    Bushra Tabassum, Daffodil International University, Dhaka

    Abstract: The title of this poster is, “Hollywood, Bollywood and Afghanistan” and the purpose of this poster is to identify how the common people are viewing the content given by the Hollywood and Bollywood industry about Afghanistan. To observe that I have targeted The Music Industry of Hollywood and Bollywood and observed their music about Afghanistan. Through this experience I have got many objectives for this poster. I also came to know how the discourses around the Afghan situation are different depending on the industry: in Hollywood the songs are about antiwar emotions, saving people, stopping the war, patriotic emotions. On the other hand, in Bollywood the songs are on fantasizing about women, romanticizing war, showing off with weapons. Another major issue is that people of the Indian subcontinent think that belly-dance is a part of Afghan or Muslim culture. Any Bollywood item songs nowadays are incomplete without a belly-dance number and Arabic-sounding words like “Wallah,” “Ma Sha Allah,” “Nazar,” “Afghan Jalebi,” “Habibi,” etc. The positive and negative reactions of the audience after listening to the songs about Afghanistan is also a major focus of this poster.

    Charlie Wilson’s War: Hollywood’s Portrayal of Funding Militants in the Conflict between Believers and Non-believers
    Rafiqul Anowar (Russell), Independent Filmmaker

    Abstract: Charlie Wilson's War is a 2007 American film based on the biography of U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson, mainly focusing on his tireless efforts along with the CIA, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia which led them to support the Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet–Afghan War 1979-1988. To create an international appeal against Soviet Military atrocities in Afghanistan, allied parties posited that the conflict was as ‘Good versus Evil’ and ‘Believers versus Non-Believers’. The movie portrays how this covert operation gradually increased funds to support Afghan Mujahideen Guerrillas with heavy arms, who belong to extreme religious ethnic tribes, including a major faction named Taliban. Charlie’s vision might be to see Vietnam as the American defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. But the consequences of this arms program went too far in real history. Considering the effectiveness, storyline, visuals, and context, this film is not a Rambo type jingoistic portrayal of American Heroism, but an intellectual manifestation of distorting the historical truth. Though after the violent attack of 9/11 the world gets a distinctive message of evilness under the religious disguise, the question stills remain how, when and why those evil people still support international terrorism. Charlie Wilson's War gives us chances to question and think about the future. 

    Afghanistan through Popular Lenses of Hollywood and Bollywood: A Symbolic Representation
    Mobashshir Jamal, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, India

    Abstract: The reminiscences of popular culture in Afghanistan have not been as painful as the recent symbolic history of Afghanistan. The war-torn country has been used extensively to symbolize whatever suits different players and stakeholders in the play. Bollywood offered some sort of a sense of platenarity, affection, bonhomie, and love towards the landlocked country. From Dharmatma and Khuda Gawah where we feel the warmth of Kabuliwala, to Kabul express which investigates the situations in Afghanistan after 9/11 in 2001, Bollywood seems to be softly just to the land in its own way. Hollywood and the US players never missed toeing the line of nationalism or national interest through movies and cinema around Afghanistan. Hollywood heavily exploited the land for their self-claimed-magnum opus cinema and movies. Though Zero Dark Thirty and The Tillman Story put some balance to the discourses around falsification of pride in the war in Afghanistan, the WikiLeaks’ claim that Washington wanted to use Bollywood for propaganda in Afghanistan shows all the intentions crystal clear and indicates what the US might have done to its own popular industry. Though Washington claimed for "a specific country's ideas for opportunities for India to use soft power in helping Afghanistan's reconstruction." My paper attempts to accentuate the issues with various popular apparatus, and through which several social contentions in contemporary Afghanistan can be moulded and mended.

    From Nostalgia to Nostophobia: Kabul and Kabuliwalas in the Film Adaptations of Tagore’s “Kabuliwala”
    Shah Ahmed, East Delta University, Chittagong

    Abstract: The representation of Rabindranath Tagore’s fictional Kabul and Kabuliwala undergoes, contrapuntally, a spatio-temporal change in the ongoing film adaptations of the story “Kabuliwala” (1892). Starting from Tapan Sinha who improvised a prefatory vignette in his Kabuliwala (1957) focusing upon the demography of Afghanistan compared to that of Hindustan where some of the adventurous Afghans turn to for the mercantile purposes, the subsequent filmmakers meld both Kabul and Kolkata in a way that the audience can descry both cities in cultural, ethnic and historical parallelism. However, the recent retelling of the story particularly reflects upon the contemporary political and confrontational issues in Afghanistan jeopardizing the life of the Kabuliwalas living in India. This paper examines three adaptations of the story – Tapan Sinha’s Kabuliwala (1957), Hemen Gupta’s Kabuliwala (1961), and Deb Medhekar’s Bioscopewala (2016) – in order to reveal the directors’ deviations from Tagore’s text that hardly concerns the Afghan ethnic dynamics. Focusing on the gradual shift from Kabuliwalas’ spontaneity to coercion behind their travels to India and from their nostalgia to nostophobia as regards their feelings for homeland, I will assess, from the theoretical lens of auteurism, the directorial creativity in contextualizing the fictional story in the backdrop of the contemporary mayhem that makes the films full of intensity and sharp political significance.

    Zoom Link:
    Session ID: 64600434105
    Session Password: 5876

  • Plenary Address | Main Room | 12:00 - 12:30 pm

    Some thoughts on Afghanistan

    Dr. Claire Chambers
    Professor of Global Literature, University of York

    Professor Kaiser Hamidul Haq
    Department of English and Humanities, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB)

    Bio: Claire Chambers is Professor of Global Literature at the University of York, UK, where she teaches literature from South Asia, the Arab world, and their diasporas. She is the author of several books, including Britain Through Muslim Eyes (2015), Rivers of Ink: Selected Essays (2017), and Making Sense of Contemporary British Muslim Novels (2019). Recently, she edited Dastarkhwan: Food Writing from Muslim South Asia (2021), co-edited (with Nafhesa Ali and Richard Phillips) A Match Made in Heaven: British Muslim Women Write About Love and Desire (2020), and co-authored (with Richard Phillips, Nafhesa Ali, Kristina Diprose, and Indrani Karmakar) Storying Relationships (2021). Claire is Editor-in-Chief (with Rachael Gilmour) of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, which she has edited for a decade. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

    Zoom Link:
    Meeting ID: 679 2442 5472
    Password: 647294

  • Parallel Sessions | Room 1 | 01:30 - 02:20 pm

    Afghan Identity and Subjectivity

    Chair: Muntasir Mamun, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) | 

    Positioning Muslims in Post 9/11 Apocalyptic History: A Critical Perspective through Film, Fiction and Politics
    Md Nazme Furkanul Hoque, Doctoral Research Scholar, Department of English, School of Languages and Literature, Sikkim University, India

    Abstract: On 11th September, 2001 with the fall of the Twin Towers in the US, the world experienced a huge change in political history, US relationship to the Asian countries, and most importantly a backlash which turned into the notion of ‘other’ for the Muslims worldwide. This paper with a post 9/11 film My Name Is Khan and a few fictions from the Indian subcontinent like The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, Brick Lane by Monica Ali examine how 9/11 introduces a new history of racial segregation of the Muslim; how one’s name faces mistrust and misconduct, and how post 9/11 politics include the marginalized policies for Muslims. 

    Reimagining Kabul as an Epicenter of Revolutionaries and Jihadists during the First World War
    Lumbini Sharma, Doctoral fellow, Department of Assam University, India

    Abstract: The position of Kabul was critical in the German war plan owing to its proximity to India – the ‘jewel in the crown’. Kabul emerged as a melting point of spontaneous political exchange among the Indian revolutionaries, Jihadists, and German consuls – all with a singular aim – destabilizing British hold over India. The German mission, consisting of Indian revolutionaries and German consuls, arrived at Herat in mid 1915. This mission, along with Obeidullah Shindhi and Mahmud al-Hasan, struggled for achieving their two-pronged aim. The first was to incur anti-British sentiment among the Indian Muslims by spreading Jihadi propaganda among them, and the second was to exploit Kabul as a platform to sabotage Delhi to overthrow the British rule from India. They had established a Provisional Government of India in Kabul afterward. This paper tries to contextualize the role of Kabul in the German war plan, stretching from San Francisco to Kabul. It argues how the revolutionaries were perceived by the Colonial Government as ‘terrorists’, in the context of analyzing their activities, in and outside India, during the First World War.

    An Eclipse on the Thousand “Sons” in Afghanistan
    Jannatul Farhana, American International University-Bangladesh, Dhaka

    Abstract: Afghanistan, the land of exoticism and romanticism, simultaneously, has recently drawn the attention of the world again with the ‘fall of Kabul’ by the Taliban. Possessing the utmost devotion to the Islamic law and patriotism, the Taliban, the promising sons of Afghanistan, brought Kabul under their dominance in the 1990s. Their reign, from 1996 to 2001, obliterating the reliance of the common Afghans in them, has devastated Afghanistan’s social, political, religious, and cultural harmony with their arrogance and, possibly, ignorance of proper Islamic Law (Shariah). Subsequently, the Taliban, systematically, oppressed, brutalized, terrorized, maimed, and murdered their own people during their governance. The recent ‘victory’ of the Taliban has brought back those terrifying memories of the 1990s, depicted comprehensively in Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, and traumatized the civilians to leave the country desperately, despite the cordial pledges of the Taliban. This study attempts to depict the transformation of the Taliban, which can be considered as an eclipse, from the patriotic freedom fighters to the terrorists, along with the reasons behind the excessive and irrepressible trauma of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, with reference to A Thousand of Splendid Suns and history.

    Neo-Oriental Discourse, Western Propaganda and Afghanistan: Fact Vs. Fiction
    Shafaq Muzaffar, University of Kashmir, India

    Abstract: Neo-orientalism as a term was conceived  in academics after the tragedy of 9/11. Since then Neo-orientalism has been reconstructing Muslims as not only backward and inferior but also as full of violence.. Ali Behdad and Juliet A. Williams opine the same by writing that Neo Orientalism is “Monolithic, totalizing, reliant on a binary logic and based on an assumption of moral and cultural superiority over the Oriental other”. Neo-orientalism in simple words refers to the ‘Othering’ of Muslims by not only the West but the East as well, by not only the Non-Muslims but Muslims as well. The views about the dangerous Muslims further got strengthened by the Western media. In Khaled Hosseini’s novels we find misrepresentation of his homeland through the reinforcement of conventional Orientalist structures. Hosseini’s novels might be viewed as supporting documents to the U.S. policy on Afghanistan, or, as some critics like Dabashi, say that it is the emotional addendum to such world views. In Nadeem Aslam’s selected novels we witness the actual workings of the neo-colonial and neo-oriental US forces. A comparative analysis of the two novelists on Afghanistan presents an actual picture of Afghanistan and the Western propaganda. Meghan O’Rourke in The Kite Runner: Do I really have to read it?  Writes, “Why have Americans, who traditionally avoid foreign literature like the plague, made The Kite Runner into a cultural touchstone? What version of life abroad is it that seems so palatable and approachable to us? Why The Kite Runner and not any of the other books about Afghanistan that have recently hit the shelves?”

    This paper will therefore try to find the relevance of these ideas to get a clearer picture of the troubled nation. There are streams of imagination flowing about Afghanistan because of recent developments and cultural myths about it are being fetched too far. The scholar endeavors to find the facts about the same.

    Zoom Link:
    Meeting ID: 679 2442 5472
    Password: 647294

  • Parallel Sessions | Room 2 | 01:30 - 02:20 pm

    Afghanistan and Beyond: Other places, Other Perspectives

    Chair: Dr. Syeda Farzana Sultana, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) | 

    Portrait of a Mobile Political Subject: The Figure of the Afghan Mujahideen in South Africa in the 1980s
    Medina Moosa, University of the Western Cape South Africa, and Ghent University, Belgium

    Abstract: My research has focused on the Afghan Mujahideen in South Africa and Angola during the 1980s. I have been interested in tracking the Mujahideen as they appear in discursive and political spaces.  I have been interested in looking at how the Mujahideen developed into a specific political subject over time. What did this figure do? The different spaces that it emerged within. All at the same time, but taking on different roles within these different spaces. The project looked at how this figure in these spaces became a mobile political subject. Moving to and from spaces where certain political identities seem fixed. This figure was deployed across two contexts that are counter-intuitive. They turned up in two very different political and discursive spaces that end up creating very different trajectories in completely contradicting ways. There is an unstable subjectivity because it appears in different contexts.
    In doing justice for or towards the future this project allowed for a rethinking of political subject positions. What comes across as a seemingly conventional and fixed idea of political subjectivity becomes unsettled through the figure of the Mujahideen in South Africa and Angola in the 1980s. This figure allows one to rethink the idea of political subjects thereby destabilizing these subjects. As a political subject that’s mobilized by the apartheid state through its counter intelligence operations and through sections of the Muslim population that are involved in the struggle the figure is not fixed and unsettles the binary of friend and enemy. It becomes an emancipatory figure for the young who declare themselves against apartheid and are Muslim. At the same time, the figure is paradoxically a proxy for the apartheid state deployed as an ally in the state's mobilization against the communist and the anti-apartheid liberation movement.

    Beyond the Mainstream Narrative: Seeing the Other Side of the Story through the Lens of Yasmina Khadra’s The Sirens of Baghdad
    Avijit Das, National Institute of Technology, Durgapur, India and Dr. Shri Krishan Rai, National Institute of Technology, Durgapur, India

    Abstract: The present paper offers a critical and comprehensive understanding of how Yasmina Khadra’s fiction The Sirens of Baghdad (2008) provides a counter-narrative to the institutionalized politics of the Western hegemonic discourse regarding the people living in the conflicting country of Iraq. Set against the backdrop of America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, the novel attempts to unearth the psyche of the young men of decent origins taking up arms against the Western forces. The narrator of the novel represents thousands of young men who are often branded as religious fanatics in the West, but are actually fighting against the injustices, inequalities, and humiliations which they have to endure. The writer’s professed aim is not to justify radicalism and violence, but to provide a thorough understanding of some of the main drives which led to the occurrence of violence in these war-torn regions. According to Tabish Khair, “Violence, in other words, is not a free choice at the social level...These individuals are usually those who feel that an injustice had been done to them and theirs, those who labor under an overpowering feeling of deprivation.” (Khair, 2008 p.10) Rather than portraying religion as the source of hatred, the novel emphasized the social and political issues. One of the main hindrances, the author believes, in the process of establishing peace in these conflicting territories is the Western stereotyping, which the author tries to dismantle in the following novel. The present paper also offers a comparative study with John Updike’s fiction Terrorist in order to vindicate the countering of the Western narrative in The Sirens of Baghdad.

    Revisiting Afghanistan through the Collective Unconscious: Fascination of the People of Sylhet for the Afghans
    Fahmida Sharmin, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet

    Abstract: As a person from Sylhet, my interest in Afghanistan traces back to my childhood when my late father told me the story of Rabindranath Tagore’s “The Kabuliwala” as a bedtime story. By this time, he would tell the stories of the Afghans who lived in Sylhet in the pre-Liberation war era. In his recollection, the Afghans were courageous people with a great heart for hospitality– I have relatives who descended from the Afghans. Syed Mujtaba Ali, Zia Haider Rahman, and Mainus Sultan- all three of the writers who wrote about Afghanistan belong to the greater region of Sylhet. Ali’s Deshe Bideshe and Shabnam give us a picture of his fascination for the Afghans. Rahman did not mention India but Afghanistan in his phenomenal novel In the Light of What We Know. Sultan, in Kabuler Caravan Sorai and Road to Kandahar, sheds light on the heritage and culture of Afghanistan that was losing the hopes of survival in the hands of the Taliban. The Afghans influenced the history, language (Nagri Script), culture, and cuisine of Sylhet. This paper, therefore, intends to study Afghanistan through the collective unconscious of the people of Sylhet, who were ruled by the Afghans in the past.

    The Representation of Taliban by the Islamic Speakers of Bangladesh
    Md. Shamshul Arafin, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, Dhaka

    Abstract: This paper examines the role of a group of Bangladeshi Islamic religious leaders who are in the quest of shaping the common people’s views on Afghanistan’s Taliban group with the help of social media. Referring to the Taliban as the future flag bearers of Khorasan- the legendary black flag bearers of Imam Mahdi, a section of Islamic speakers are winning the soft- corner of the general mass in Bangladesh. Over the years, using social media and in various religious congregations, the religious speakers are propagating and labeling the Taliban as the Mujahideen – the holy warriors. As a result, people are gradually growing sentimental and also blindfolding supporting the Taliban’s ideology - without knowing their actual intention and ignoring the heinous crimes and atrocities committed by them. Besides, the main objective is to find out the reason behind the speakers’ portraying the positive images of the Taliban in Bangladesh. Is it only because of their religion (Islam) they are being portrayed heroically or the religious speakers are shaping our ideology about the Taliban according to their perspective?

    Zoom Link:
    Meeting ID: 611 2266 0269
    Password: 359478

  • Parallel Sessions | Room 3 | 01:30 - 02:20 pm

    Khaled Hosseini: Oppression, Suppression and Trauma

    Chair: Dr. Tabassum Zaman, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) | 

    Atrocity on Afghan Hazaras Portrayed in Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner
    Lutfun Naher Mahmud Oysharja University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, Dhaka

    Abstract: Khaled Hosseini’s masterpiece The Kite Runner delineates the grievous aspects of the lives of Afghan Hazaras, the third-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. Hosseini depicts the worst scenario of the state by developing a master-slave relationship between Pashtuns and Hazaras as well as portraying an antagonistic relationship between Taliban and Hazaras. Although growing up together in Kabul, Afghanistan, being raised in the same family, and sharing many things together, the two main characters Amir and Hassan are seen to have a distinct social class that determines their future. In addition, the social prejudice, ethnic class difference, and racial violence present in Afghan society ruin the beautiful childhood of Hazara boys like Ali, Hassan, and Sohrab. Hence, the novel demonstrates the social catastrophe of the country by comprising the darkness of racial discrimination, dehumanization, slavery of the Hazaras, their deprivation of basic education, both mental as well as physical assault, oppression, and murder. This paper aims at explicating the atrocity on Afghan Hazaras pointed out in Husseini’s prolific piece The Kite Runner.

    Amir/Jesus in Hosseini's The Kite Runner:  Knocking on Collective Unconscious
    Abdullah Al Mamun, European Standard School, Dhaka

    Abstract: In the post-9/11 era, any political turmoil in Afghanistan has triggered intense imagination, attributed assertion, and old Orientalist ontology among the western literary circles. The purpose of this paper is to explore the psychological reason behind these phenomena; and therefore it will argue how a literary piece like The Kite Runner (2003) may excite the collective unconscious of a particular sect of people. The paper is divided into two parts. After initial contextualization, the first part “Face Off: Is it Amir or Jesus Christ?” will explore a quasi-similar parallel between the life of Jesus and the protagonist of the novel Amir. This finding will lead us to the next part, “Knock, Knock: Hail Jesus!” Here, with methodological justification, Carl Gustav Jung's (1875 -1961) theory of the collective unconscious will be used as a frame to answer the thesis question of how a Jesusified character in a literary piece is likely to provoke more of the Western sensation. Finally, for a broader context, a hypothesis will be posed that the role of the collective unconscious behind Western occupation in Afghanistan is no less important.

    Reading the Absences in The Kite Runner
    Dr. Sheikh Mehedi Hasan, Associate Professor, Department of English Language and Literature, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Trishal, Mymensingh, Bangladesh

    Abstract: Much has been written up to now on Khaled Hosseini’s novels, especially on The Kite Runner, exploring a number of themes ranging over sin, suffering and atonement, war and violence, religious fanaticism, Islamophobia, racism, ethnic clash, exile and immigration. However, this paper does not intend to elaborate on those issues already available in print. What the paper attempts to offer is a reading of absences or the unsaid in the novel as Pierre Macherey has theorized in his seminal book A Theory of Literary Production (1966). The Kite Runner is not claimed to be a historical novel, nor is it autobiographical. However, some crucial historical references are found in the novel; dates, events and facts are mentioned with certain accuracy. Since a text is in one way or another embedded in history, it leaves absences deliberately or subconsciously creating a sense of rapture for the readers to explore and explain what it does not or cannot say. The paper, thus, aims at exploring and explaining such gaps and absences in relation to presences of the novel. With this aim, the paper attempts to re-read the novel with historical consciousness in its bid to discover the knowledge of absences in the novel’s linear description and evasion of diversities and bridge the gap in the discontinuity of the narration.

    Child Abuse in Khaled Husseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns
    Rokeya Begum, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet

    Abstract: A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) by Khaled Husseini exposes multiple issues of Afghanistan spreading over three decades under the regime of Soviet Russia, the subsequent deadly wars, and Taliban dictators. In relation to this, the more sensitive issue associated with children is child abuse. As it is well known everywhere that children are the most fragile subjects to war occurring in any place of the world, the fictional world of Husseini is not an exception. Alongside, the country’s traditional and patriarchal structures contribute to heightening the physical, psychological, sexual, and social abuses of children of different ages as reflected in the perception of the novelist in A Thousand Splendid Suns. Starting with Mariam, the protagonist of the novel, the child abuse continues in different forms leaving a long term effect on the child of different generations named Laila, Aziza and Zalmai. Applying the theory of social psychology, the study focuses on the reasons, forms, and effects of child abuse analyzing in-depth the characters from Husseini’s second popular novel.

    Zoom Link:
    Session ID: 69355169082
    Session Password: 2028

  • Parallel Sessions | Room 4 | 01:30 - 02:20 pm

    Trauma, Memory and Literature: Afghan Context

    Chair: Sumaiya Kabir, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) | 

    Trauma and the Hidden Fragmentation of Afghanistan in Nadeem Aslam’s Fiction
    Bushra Mahzabeen, University of Warwick, UK

    Abstract: As a result of decades-long wars, oppression, and brutality – first from the Soviet invasion, followed by the Taliban rule, and consequently, the US-led occupation – the literary works produced in and about Afghanistan often reflect the trauma of the people and their struggle to string together a shared narrative that has been suppressed after years of suffering. In the novel The Wasted Vigil, Pakistani author Nadeem Aslam, while remaining conscious of his position as an outsider, documents the ordeal experienced by his characters, using memories and flashbacks to uncover the hidden pieces of the narrative puzzle. The story highlights how the daughter of a British doctor, Marcus, and his Afghan wife lose their daughter to Russian soldiers, who are eventually taken by the American intelligence to be used as collateral in the war against the Taliban. The novel reflects Marcus’ traumatic past and his quest to find his lost grandson, while the arrival of outsiders in his home gradually reveals how their lives are interwoven in a common collective thread. Centered within the scholarly discussion of postcolonial and world literary studies, this paper aims to visibilize the concealed fragmentation and displacement within the characters in The Wasted Vigil, owing to the continuing trauma and violence in Afghanistan.

    Testimony of Trauma and Resilience: A Study of Testimonio Narratives by Women in Afghanistan
    Bhagya Lakshmi, Central University of Tamilnadu, India

    Abstract: John Beverley defines testimonio as “A novel, or novella length narrative in book or pamphlet form, told in first person, who is the real protagonist or witness of the events he or she recounts, and whose unit of narration is usually a life or a significant life experience”. Testimonio narratives are often used by the subaltern as a means to provide witness accounts of significant life experiences 

    The proposed paper aims to study testimonio narratives by the women in Afghanistan as testimonial accounts of trauma and resilience. The texts selected for analysis are, Raising My Voice by Malala Joya and My Forbidden Face by Latifa. The paper argues that the select testimonio narratives foreground witnessing and narration as significant forms of resistance against fundamentalism in Afghanistan. The study analyzes the representative nature of the testimonio narratives and observes how witnessing and narration serves as a significant form of resistance. It aims to analyze how testimonio narratives from the state of Afghanistan mediate the accounts of trauma and resilience with the international community and infuse ‘empathetic unsettlement’ among the international community.

    Siddiq Barmak’s Movie Osama (2003): Portrayal of Afghan Single Women’s Trauma & Stereotypes about Islamic Culture under Taliban’s Regime
    Dr Elham Fatma

    Osama is about an Afghan pre-teen girl who earns living in the guise of a boy in the absence of men in her family, but the revelation of her identity called upon the wrath of the Taliban during their regime before 9/11. Regaining control after twenty years, they are perceived to complicate women’s fundamental rights. Therefore, Osama would now be referred to for the representations of passive Afghan women with no agency and men as misogynist, abusive, oppressive, and perverted. In this presentation, I would critically review this movie to argue that it depicts reality but simultaneously promotes a particular ideology that acts as a framework, which contributes to shaping the new orientalists’ presumptions about Islam as a religion of inequality and violence. In disagreement with the Taliban’s distortion of Sharia rules concerning women’s marriage, purdah, punishment, etc. shown in the movie, this presentation would focus on the Quranic injunction on them that need to be brought to light in response to the widely held notions rife against women’s rights in Islam.

    Zoom Link:
    Session ID: 69478897384
    Session Password: 7639


Day 2 | October 31, 2021

  • Conversation | Main Room | 9:30 - 10:20 am

    Past Continuous: Afghanistan in Deshe Bideshe and Now

    Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam
    Department of English and Humanities, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh

    Dr. Sohana Manzoor
    Associate Professor, Department of English and Humanities, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh

    Bio: Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam is perhaps the only bilingual author in Bangladesh. Dr. Islam received the Bangla Academy Award for Literature in 1996 and the Ekushey Padak in 2018 for his contributions to Bangla literature. His short story collection Prem o Prarthanar Galpo won the Prothom Alo Book of the Year award in 2005. Dr. Islam is a Professor of English, recently retired from the University of Dhaka. He is currently a Professor at the Department of English and Humanities, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), Dhaka.

    Zoom Link:
    Meeting ID: 679 2442 5472
    Password: 647294

  • Plenary Address | Main Room | 10:30 - 11:00 am

    Writing the Self in Afghanistan: Foregrounding Western and Islamic Feministic Perspectives

    Professor Lily Want
    Head, Department of English, Islamic University of Science & Technology, Kashmir, India

    Professor Fakrul Alam
    Director, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Research Institute for Peace and Liberty, University of Dhaka

    Abstract: Postcolonial feminists not only accuse Western feminists for ignoring the similarities and differences in the struggle of women worldwide but also reject the idea of a global sisterhood. Thus the wider feminist movement within the gamut of the theoretical framework of postcolonial feminism proclaims a cultural perspective beyond the Western world by acknowledging the individual experiences of women around the world. Affiliated with Black Feminism, Postcolonial feminists seek to bring issues of ethnic conflict and racism into feminist discourse. In her article “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”,  Andre Lorde makes a pertinent statement: “…as white women ignore their built-in privilege and define woman in terms of their own experiences alone, then women of color become “other” which prevents the literary work produced by women of color from being represented in mainstream feminism”. 

    This paper is a modest attempt to explore and analyse the self-writings of three Afghan women writers: The Favoured Daughter by Fawzia Koofi, A Woman Among Warlords by Malalai Joya and The Storyteller’s Daughter by Saira Shah to promote all-inclusive and democratic feminisms that accommodate diverse and multiple feminist perspectives of Third World women. All the three writers in their respective memoirs are seen subverting the multifarious difficulties Afghan women tend to face in their everyday life even as they reinforce the Western Eurocentric feminist ideology that presents the Third World woman as victim to her culture and tradition. The paper also argues how the US interference in Afghanistan and the subsequent fight against terrorism was framed as a fight for gender equality when what is happening in Afghanistan is a patriarchal institutionalisation of Islam and not a promulgation of the Islamic feminist perspective.

    Bio: Dr. Lily Want is a Professor of English Literature and the Head of the Department of English at Islamic University of Science & Technology, Kashmir. She served the University of Kashmir as Dean, School of Arts, Languages and Literatures and Head, department of English. Earlier she was Associate Professor at Faculty of Humanities, American University of Asia, Sharjah (UAE). Professor Want has been teaching for the last more than thirty-five years and has been rated as an excellent teacher by students in the various surveys conducted by the University of Kashmir from time to time. She has been teaching courses like British Poetry: 16th to 18th Century; Romantic and Victorian Poetry; New Literatures in English; South Asian Diasporic Literature and Literary Theory.

    Professor Want is the author of several books mostly published by Cambridge University Press. Her articles have appeared in national and international journals. She has also made numerous presentations at various workshops, orientation and refresher courses for College and University teachers both within and outside the country. She has organized a number of national and international seminars and workshops.

    Zoom Link:
    Meeting ID: 679 2442 5472
    Password: 647294

  • Poetry | Main Room | 11:10 - 11:50 am

    Afghan Poetry with Azfar Hussain

    “Load Poems Like Guns?”: Afghan Women’s Poetry against Bullets, Bayonets, and Bombs

    Professor Azfar Hussain
    Grand Valley State University, MI, USA

    Razu Alauddin
    Poet, Essayist, and Translator

    Bio: Dr Azfar Hussain is a Bangladeshi American theorist, critic, academic, bilingual writer, poet, translator, and public intellectual. He is currently Director of the Graduate Program in Social Innovation and  Associate Professor of Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies within the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. He is also Vice-President of the Global Center for Advanced Studies (GCAS) based in New York and GCAS Professor of English, World Literature, and Interdisciplinary Studies. He taught English, world literature, ethnic studies, and cultural studies at Washington State University, Bowling Green State University, and Oklahoma State University in the US; while, in Bangladesh, he taught English at Jahangirnagar University and North South University. He also worked as Scholar-in-Residence and Summer Distinguished Professor of English and Humanities at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.  In addition to authoring/editing several books, Dr. Hussain has published—in both English and Bengali—hundreds of academic, popular, and creative pieces, including translations from several non-western languages, and written on a wide range of topics from Native American poetics and politics to critiques of postmodern-poststructuralist-postcolonial theory to Marxist political economy to “third-world” literatures to globalization and imperialism to theories and practices of interdisciplinarity. Dr Hussain is also an internationally known public speaker and a frequent subject of media interviews regarding Bangladeshi society, culture, and politics. His latest book in Bengali called Darshanakkhyan (Philosophical Narratives) is an interdisciplinary intervention in the fields of contemporary politics, culture, literature, and philosophy (including the philosophy of language).

    Zoom Link:
    Meeting ID: 679 2442 5472
    Password: 647294

  • Parallel Sessions | Room 1 | 12:00 - 12:50 pm

    Syed Mujtaba Ali’s Amazing Afghanistan

    Chair: Dr. Tabassum Zaman, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) | 

    Multivocality in Travel Narratives: A Bakhtinian Reading of Deshe-Bideshe’s Afghan Lives
    Motiur Rahman, Dhaka University of Engineering & Technology, Dhaka

    Abstract: The aim of this paper is to analyze Syed Mujtaba Ali’s travel narrative Deshe Bidheshe using Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of dialogic heteroglossia and identify the book’s unique portrayal of regular Afghan lives that advocate companionship, stories, anecdotes, and meaningful relations. First published in 1948, this travel account is written based on the author’s stay in Afghanistan during the years 1927 to 1929, and it consists of multitudes of voices ranging from that of his host Dost Muhammed to Abdur Rahman, a stranger/caretaker. Through all his encounters with numerous individuals along the journey, Ali alludes to a number of other poets, writers, and also philosophers from diverse backgrounds and timelines. The multivocal nature of the text calls for a critical speculation, primarily by viewing those voices as entities sharing their parts of monophonic tales. These wide-ranging interwoven narratives of the characters duly juxtaposed with the main narratorial stream, therefore, can be interpreted from a certain dialogic orientation where the author’s voice works both as a participant and an organizer in the making of the dialogues. The article analyzes these intertwined conversations within the discourse of the text applying Bakhtin’s heteroglossia and dialogism, exploring a pluralistic picture of Afghanistan Ali recognized despite the drastic socio-cultural transformations it was then witnessing.

    Afghan Women in Syed Mujtaba Ali’s Deshe-Bideshe and the Question of Agency and Intersectionality
    Sahelee Parveen Dipa Shahjalal University of Science and Technology Sylhet

    Abstract: During and after the 9/11, the hierarchization between Western and non-Western women got much more concretized. Most particularly, non-Western Muslim women got portrayed in the Western discourse and media as the oppressed or the victims, and in the need of help or rescue from their Western counterparts. And the subsequent war on terror was mobilized through the so-called benevolent rhetoric of “liberating Muslim women from the oppressive Muslin men” which undoubtedly reinforced and reiterated the orientalist notion of savior/oppressed binary, or to use Spivak’s words “white men saving brown women from brown men” (Spivak 2000) that had been integrated into the Western realm through the colonial discourse for so long. Consequently, there emerged, credit goes to the laborious Western media and discourses, a “monolithic” (Mohanty 2008) image of non-Western Muslim women as the oppressed and victimized “Other” and Muslim men as the violent oppressor. It is against this background, taking Syed Mujtaba Ali’s Deshe Bideshe, written in the context of 1927-29 Afghan happenings, as the starting point, I want to explore the image of Afghan women, which will render a complex understanding of the Afghan women asserting their agencies in different contexts. Questioning the Western-defined liberation and admitting the complex nexus between political, economic, and ethnic issues, this paper will reread the image of Afghan women placing them in their specific historical and geopolitical contexts instead of seeing them as a “monolithic” category of oppressed beings.

    In Search of a Renewed Future: A Different Afghanistan in the Canvas of Syed Mujtaba Ali’s Deshe-Bideshe
    Soumen Chatterjee, Barabeli Junior High School, India

    Abstract: This paper aims at reading Syed Mujtaba Ali’s travelogue Deshe Bideshe (translated into English as  In a Land far from Home: A Bengali in Afghanistan by Nazes Afroz) in the context of the then Afghan King Amanullah Khan’s reformative policies. Syed Mujtaba Ali’s travelogue, Deshe Bideshe, published in 1948, recounts his experiences in Afghanistan between 1927 to1929 when he visited there to work as a Professor in the newly reformed education system under King Amanullah. His portrayal of Afghanistan is altogether different from today’s image of Afghanistan as a terror hub. In this paper, I shall try to show that the writer has not presented Afghans as an exotic “Other” here; rather he has praised the independent spirit of them in his travelogue. How Syed Mujtaba Ali with matchless objectivity has delved deep into the socio-political ethos of the then Afghanistan and analyzed the reasons behind the violent behavior of some Afghans will also be explored in this paper. In the course of my discussion, I shall attempt to establish how Afghanistan has been presented here as a place of rich and deeply-rooted culture, not as a terra nullius as is found in today’s literature and popular culture.

    Zoom Link:
    Meeting ID: 679 2442 5472
    Password: 647294

  • Parallel Sessions | Room 2 | 12:00 - 12:50 pm

    Bollywood/Hollywood: (Mis)representations of Afghanistan

    Chair: Mehek Chowdhury, Lecturer, Department of English and Humanities (DEH), University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) | 

    Mapping the (Mis)representations of Afghans in Bollywood/Indian Films
    Mohammad Reyaz, Aliah University, India

    Abstract: Indians and Afghans have shared memories, cultural and historical links as well as close strategic bilateral relations. Several Indian ruling dynasties, from Lodi to Sur, and some other provincial nawabs of South Asia, including Karrani dynasty of Bengal Sultanate were of Afghan origin. Moreover, Kabul was part of the Mughal Empire for a long time. Even during the British rule, more than half of the Pashtuns living to the east of the Durand Line were part of undivided India (present day Pakistan). Naturally, most Indian cities once had a significant Afghan population, and many still continue to have. Afghans/Pashtuns have hence got noteworthy attention in popular narratives, including in Hindi films. In movies like Kabuliwala (1961), Sanam Bewafa (1991), Khuda Gawah (1992), and more recently Bioscopewala (2017), Kesari or Panipat (2019), Bollywood has presented different shades of Afghans on celluloid. While in earlier Bollywood films Afghans/Pashtuns were stereotyped for their accent, loyalty, simplicity, and honesty, recent movies explore the political unrest. Kabul Express (2006) was an adventure drama set in the aftermath of the 2001 US invasion while Kesari (2019) vilifies the Afghans fighting against the Sikh Regiment of the British, stereotyping them as brutal, cold-blooded, and treacherous. While Afghans’ love for Indian films has been well documented, there is hardly any academic deliberation on the representation of Afghans in Hindi films. This paper seeks to fill this gap by tracing the evolution of Afghans in the popular imagination of Indians by taking six films mentioned above as case studies. From Kabuliwala to Kesari and Panipat, the single thread running through all of them is how Indian characters are all better human beings, compared to Afghans who are otherised as savage, brute, and oppressive. The larger anti-Muslim rhetoric playing out in India, besides clear Islamophobia, bordering on racism, appear to be reasons behind such portrayals.

    Through the Lens of Bollywood: Demonizing Afghan Warlords
    Shehreen Ataur Khan, Jagannath University, Dhaka

    Abstract: It is often said, “History is written by the victor,” but in the age of visual media, perhaps it will be more appropriate to rephrase the adage because nowadays history is often written by cinemas. Cinema has always played an immensely significant role in creating an impression of particular narratives or generating stereotypes. The Global North of the cinema industry has been creating such biased narratives about the Global South for generations. The scenario of prejudiced narratives becomes more problematic when the Global South (in this case Bollywood) uses cinema to perpetuate stereotypes about themselves. This paper brings out several of Bollywood’s historical cinemas like Padmaavat (2018), Panipat (2019), Kesari (2019) that represent Afghans as “Others” and discuss how these cinemas have dehumanized Afghan emperors and/or people for the sake of perpetuating the stereotypical representation of Afghanistan. The paper illustrates that such demonization of Afghan characters in Bollywood cinemas is eventually political and rooted in right-wing nationalist spirit. The paper also sets the table for opening up arguments on how such representation ultimately provokes the audience to create an oriental gaze towards Afghanistan. 

    “Bandook Dikha Dikha Ke Kya Pyaar Karegi”: Should We Celebrate the Problematic “Forceful Submission Fetish” in the Song “Afghan Jalebi”?
    Nusrat Jahan, Independent  Noakhali Science and Technology University

    Abstract: Applying visual and textual analysis, this research aims to study the representation and long-lasting impact of forceful submission fetish in the lyrics and music video of the popular Bollywood song "Afghan Jalebi" from Phantom (2015) movie. In particular, the return of the Taliban after two decades puts the whole scenario in a more complicated light. Media representation is crucial as it structures, enlightens, and obliquely commands human actions and the questionable lyrics and visual depiction of "Afghan Jalebi" situate women in general and women of Afghanistan as the epitome of submissive, sexual objects. The song normalizes the male gaze, forces consent at gunpoint, and commodifies women, complicating Afghan women's previously oppressed situation. Religion has been used as a tool to objectify and restrict women’s consent and agency. Despite the trending #metoo era, people celebrate these kinds of regressive songs and their debatable contents, further worsening and encouraging the critical status quo of women. The purpose of this research is to study the way men objectify and illustrate women as submissive creatures ready to be intimidated and also the consequences of promoting such content widely.

    Afghanistan in Bollywood Films
    Marjuque Ul Haque, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), Dhaka

    Abstract: Hollywood films have long been known to Orientalize Arabs and Muslims. Afghanistan popularly known as “the graveyard of empires” is a site of war for centuries and has received much of this oriental gaze through Hollywood films among other forms of media. Much of these films have been supervised by the US government which has made concerted efforts to present Arabs and Muslims as antagonists conflating Islam with terrorism. Bollywood films representing Afghanistan seems to have shown no exception in partaking to an oriental gaze. The purpose of this paper is to investigate this oriental gaze in Bollywood films and demonstrate how it stands in relation to Hollywood’s representation of Afghanistan.

    Zoom Link:
    Meeting ID: 611 2266 0269
    Password: 359478

  • Parallel Sessions | Room 3 | 12:00 - 12:50 pm

    Khaled Hosseini: Perspectives on Gender

    Chair: Sheikh Nahiyan, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) | 

    Women without Men: The Fading of Men in the Presence of Women in Khaled Husseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns
    Shimul Bhattacharjee, Southern University Bangladesh

    Abstract: Khaled Husseini adopted the name A Thousand Splendid Suns from a 17th century poem ‘Kabul’ written by Iranian poet Saib Tabrizi where the poet expresses his astonishment to see the sparkling beauty of Kabul which contrasts with the novel’s ruined state of the same city. In the first part, Mariam is the dominant character, who, despite being called a "harami," wants to live with her biological father but is dejected. Her mother, Nana, does not have a male counterpart by her side either. The second lead character, Laila’s childhood friend, Tariq, protects her up to the second part. However, he departs Kabul when a war erupts near the Afghan border. Laila, though educated, is subjugated by her aged husband, Rashid. Being a male writer, Khaled Husseini maintained a female gaze throughout the novel, where he writes every part from the female perspective. Mariam and Laila emerge as the novel’s heroes despite severe limits on women’s lives and their suppression under male chauvinism. The paper analyses the female gaze in the description of the early 1960s to 2000s Afghanistan, told in A Thousand Splendid Suns, where women’s male partners pale beside them.

    Mothers, Daughters and Severed Bonds: The Grim Picture of Patriarchy in Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns
    Sahria Islam Trisha, Bangladesh University of Professionals, Dhaka and Sumaeta Marjan, Bangladesh University of Professionals, Dhaka

    Abstract: This paper entitled “Mothers, Daughters and Severed Bonds: The Grim Picture of Patriarchy in Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns” studies Hosseini’s prominent novel from a feminist perspective. The previous studies on A Thousand Splendid Suns focus mostly on the oppression of women, the female protagonists, and the vision of Afghanistan in the novel. Thus, a substantial gap is present that explores the mother-daughter relationship in the backdrop of patriarchy in A Thousand Splendid Suns. This study discusses the way a chauvinist society creates a chasm in the bonds between mothers and daughters in the novel. With the recent rise of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, people all around the world are fearing the loss of agency on the part of Afghani women corresponding to the dark chapter of the country’s history. Pondering this situation, academicians and critics must redefine the extent and power of patriarchy itself to accelerate the project against anti-feminist discourse.

    In this qualitative research paper, the feminist theory of Adrienne Rich about the relationship between mother and daughter has been appropriated to study the way Hosseini depicts the gendered power relations in a patriarchal society. Besides, theories of Nancy Chodorow and Lindsey German, regarding the psychoanalytic aspect of motherhood and the economic aspect of patriarchy respectively, have been incorporated to study the grim portrayal of chauvinism in Afghanistan and Hosseini’s subsequent subversion of that very hierarchy through the sisterhood of Mariam and Laila in the novel. The paper will also study the oppression of women within the patriarchal framework of Afghanistan. The paper concludes on Khaled Hosseini’s feminist approach to decentralize this Afghan society during the reign of Taliban by suggesting a reconstruction of the lost bond between women in a patriarchal society.

    Triple Marginalization of Afghan Women in Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns
    Shahnaz Ameer, East West University, Dhaka

    Abstract: The recent Taliban takeover has made headlines around the world and mounted concerns over human rights violations in Afghanistan. In the current scenario, Khaled Hosseini’s novels add more perspectives and give an insight into the country’s situation. This paper will focus on Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns to explore the treatment of women in the novel. This study intends to discuss how the oppression of women in the novel is threefold – due to social hierarchy, patriarchal notions, and the Taliban’s regime. To begin with, the two female protagonists of the novel have a low social status in society – Mariam is a harami, a person born out of wedlock, and Laila belongs to the minority tribe of Tajiks. Rasheed, the husband of these women, is a proponent of patriarchy and misogyny – his maltreatment of women further unfolds the second layer of marginalization. Finally, the Taliban’s imposition of strict edicts persecutes and terrorizes women making them voiceless and invisible in public spaces. These three levels of marginalization, as a result, act in conjunction to aggravate the already deplorable situation of women and oppress them further.

    The “Othering” of Women in Khalid Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns
    Sana Altaf, University of Kashmir, India

    Abstract: Afghanistan has a long history of political turmoil, having witnessed incessant violence at the hands of both foreign conquerors and the internal warring regimes. Whether it be the period of Soviet alliance, the rule of the Mujahideens, the US occupation, or the now reigning Taliban regime, the common people have been victims of numerous human rights violations, crimes, genocides, and massacres. Women, in particular, have been forced to abide by the strict ideologies of various regimes and dutifully adhere to the stringent laws and regulations imposed upon them. Khalid Hosseini, in his second ground-breaking novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007), primarily focuses on the injustices met by the women in the war-ridden zone of Afghanistan. This paper attempts to analyze the double marginalization that breeds and sustains the dehumanizing problems experienced by women. It aims at examining how the objectification and dehumanization of women in the larger public sphere are analogous to the commodification, and victimization women encounter in their domestic spheres, sustained by the patriarchy ingrained in the society. It also explores how Hosseini portrays the women characters as fighting against all the odds and trying to claim a space for themselves despite all the attempts to subdue them.

    Zoom Link:
    Session ID: 63899407612
    Session Password: 2692

  • Panel Discussion | Main Room | 2:00 - 2:50 pm

    Afghanistan Today: Heritage, Art and Women

    France Marquet
    Principal Trustee of Madanjeet Singh Foundation, Representative of South Asia Foundation to UNESCO

    Kubra Khademi
    Artist, Recipient of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres

    Khushi Kabir
    Coordinator, Nijera Kori & Vice-Chairperson, South Asia Foundation, Bangladesh Chapter

    Dr. Khan Touseef Osman
    Research Fellow, Department of English and Humanities, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB)

    Zoom Link:
    Meeting ID: 679 2442 5472
    Password: 647294