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Humanitarian Invasion


  • 8 b/w illus. 2 maps
  • Page extent: 332 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.62 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9781107112070)

Humanitarian Invasion is the first book of its kind: a ground-level inside account of what development and humanitarianism meant for Afghanistan, a country touched by international aid like no other. Relying on Soviet, Western, and NGO archives, interviews with Soviet advisers and NGO workers, and Afghan sources, Timothy Nunan forges a vivid account of the impact of development on a country on the front lines of the Cold War. Nunan argues that Afghanistan functioned as a laboratory for the future of the Third World nation-state. If, in the 1960s, Soviets, Americans, and Germans sought to make a territorial national economy for Afghanistan, later, under military occupation, Soviet nation-builders, French and Swedish humanitarians, and Pakistani-supported guerrillas fought a transnational civil war over Afghan statehood. Covering the entire period from the Cold War to Taliban rule, Humanitarian Invasion signals the beginning of a new stage in the writing of international history.

• Covers the history of development and humanitarianism in Afghanistan throughout the entire twentieth century • Engages with anthropological debates about humanitarianism through both Western and non-Western case studies • Makes extensive use of Soviet archives and interviews with former Soviet advisers


Introduction; 1. How to write the history of Afghanistan; 2. Afghanistan's developmental moment?; 3. States of exception, states of humanity; 4. From Pashtunwali to communism?; 5. Under a red veil; 6. Borderscapes of denial; 7. The little platoons of humanity; 8. Conclusion.


'Beautifully written and the product of unique and prodigious research, Humanitarian Invasion enhances our understanding of the Soviet Union in the world, while poignantly chronicling the long-term collapse of the Afghan state. With this book, Timothy Nunan has made a critical contribution to our understanding of modern international history.' Robert Rakove, Stanford University, California

'This is a truly fascinating, impressively researched work. Its highly original perspective illuminates not only the modern history of Afghanistan, but also the wider history of geopolitically-driven development missions in what we used to call the 'Third World'.' Anatol Lieven, author of Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power and Pakistan: A Hard Country

'A groundbreaking study of a little understood experience of modernity in what used to be called the third world.' Pankaj Mishra, The Guardian Best Books of the Year (

'Nunan unexpectedly presents the political and present-day issues with researching history in both a global and development context. Due to the history of development and the Cold War, 'failed states' and 'unfriendly regimes' create situations in which historians must decide how to advance their research. In Nunan's case, he continued his work and visited Central Asian, Russian, and Indian archives, in addition to interviewing local people while he was in-country. By not allowing 'failed state' diplomacy and politics to hinder academic research, he manages to bring a nuanced approach to the historiography of development and Afghanistan.' Ryan Glauser, Global Histories

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