In narrating Afghanistan's 21st century, future historians might bracket the first decade with the two Bonn conferences of 2001 and 2011: great-power delegates and handpicked elite Afghans meeting to plot Afghanistan's transitional place in the international system. In contrast, Afghan popular and intellectual cultures alike have often voiced alternate histories. For example, Malang Kohistani, a contemporary working-class singer of Kabul's hinterland, sees top-down Afghan integrations into globality not as a fundamentally new construction of institutions that promise prosperity for a nation-state and its people but rather as one more intrusive disruption—in a chain of similar events beginning over 2,000 years ago with Alexander—in everyday people's continuous, bottom-up efforts to ensure their livelihoods, in part through developing horizontally organized trade networks. And indeed it is not only post-2001 statist intervention that has attracted such popular responses, but this is also a longstanding critique among both urban and rural Afghan intellectuals. In some ways Malang Kohistani echoes Malang Jan, the renowned 1950s sharecropper-poet of Jalalabad, as well as various more elite authors.
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