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Taming the Imperial Imagination: How the British Empire came to know Afghanistan, and Why it Matters

with Dr. Martin Bayly


Tuesday, February 21, 2017
12:30 PM - 1:45 PM
The Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E Street, NW, Lindner Family Commons, Room 602
Washington, DC 20052




Drawing lessons from his recent book on Anglo-Afghan relations in the nineteenth century, Martin Bayly presents a study into the ways in which powerful states and empires seek to know and understand those parts of the world they consider to be unknown, dangerous and violent. Taming the Imperial Imagination shows how colonial knowledge on Afghanistan was produced, reproduced, refined, and put to use in policy decisions. It shows how the British came to know, and fear Afghanistan, and how it rationalised those fears, tracing the nineteenth century origins of the forms of knowledge that inform interventions in Afghanistan and elsewhere today. And it challenges those stale narratives of Anglo-Afghan relations that revolve around notions of imperial geopolitical rivalries – the so-called ‘great game’ between Britain and Russia – instead addressing the crucial question: what did Afghanistan itself mean to the British? This talk will carry insights for historians, political scientists, and policy-makers alike.

Martin Bayly is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow (Research Officer) at The London School of Economics and Political Science.



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