Some exciting news: Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, two key members of the Taliban Sources Project (TSP), have announced their plans for the The Taliban Reader: War, Islam and Politics in Their Own Words. The book is due out in late 2017, and Hurst will be publishing it.
The purpose of the TSP was to enable access to primary sources otherwise unavailable to researchers by virtue of format, geography, language or political context. The project has intrinsic value even if no one makes use of the materials it contains, purely in terms of historical and cultural preservation. But it really makes a contribution when scholars actively engage with the source materials and put them to use. To put it in academicky bureaucratic terms, it’s all about “knowledge transfer”.
The Taliban Reader is the first such effort to come out of the TSP, which took three years of effort to complete – longer for Alex and Felix, who have been at it for a decade now. My own interest in guerrilla vernacular presses and communications is more on the comparative and thematic side of things, so that will be the flavor I’d be looking for in th ebook, and possible generating as part of my own publication projects.
Who are the Taliban? Are they a militant movement? Are they religious scholars? The fact that these and other questions are still raised is testimony to the way the movement has been studied, often at arm’s length and with scant use of primary sources.
The Taliban Reader forges a new path, bringing together an extensive range of largely unseen sources in a guide to the Afghan Islamist movement from a unique insider perspective. Ideal for students, journalists and scholars alike, this book is the result of an unprecedented, decade-long effort to encourage the emergence of participant-centred accounts of Afghan history.
This ground-breaking collection, ranging from news articles and opinion pieces to online publications and poems transcribed by hand in the field, sets the stage for a recalibration of how we understand and study the Afghan Taliban. It challenges researchers to forge new norms in the documentation of conflict and provides insight into the future trajectory of political Islamism in South Asia and the Middle East.