An Introduction to the History of Modernity in Afghanistan

The process of modernity in Afghanistan was intricately related to the objectives and policies of monarchs and ruling emirs of the country particularly during the rule of Shir Ali Khan in late 19th Century. However, Afghanistan's thinkers, writers and artists have had their share in propelling the Afghan society towards the contemporary modern world. Yet, the creation of the environment suitable for the progressive activities of the cultural and literary elites was itself the outcome of the policies adopted by the ruling emirs. Conversely, the constraining role of the rulers can be observed during periods where the prevailing political conditions limited the freedom of these groups, as in the period of Amir Habibullah Khan and his courtesans.

The impediments to modernization of Afghanistan, however, lay most prominently in the incongruities of the social, political and cultural fabrics of the society at large. Among these one may include great power influence and meddling in internal affairs of the country, internecine power struggles, and the influence of religious leaders in search of wider influence and authority. Nevertheless, it is a fact that almost every step taken towards modernity in Afghanistan has come on the wake of a mixture between traditionalist and modernist elements.

In the halting process toward modernization in Afghanistan, the role of the literary elite may have been greater than influence of social and economic developments. Furthermore, it must also be noted that every regressive period in Afghanistan' modern history has resulted in the stultification of literary and cultural life of the country.

M. Nasir Mehrin
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