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The Ambiguity of Things : Souvenirs from Afghanistan

Title data

Kühn, Florian P.:
The Ambiguity of Things : Souvenirs from Afghanistan.
In: Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding. Vol. 10 (2016) Issue 1 . - pp. 97-115.
ISSN 1750-2977

Official URL: Volltext

Abstract in another language

Souvenirs can help illustrate the world-view towards a country under intervention. Following the work of Lisa Smirl, this article analyses a particular set of souvenirs from Afghanistan in order to establish how the intervention there is shaping the imaginary of conflict professionals working in Kabul in the final years of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF). Souvenirs are analysed as consistent with established tropes, in the case of Afghanistan dating back to colonial encounters beginning in the early nineteenth century; much of the ‘Othering' knowledge produced is actualized in souvenirs. In a focused analysis of a Scorpion glass, representing a particular type of souvenir, the articles concludes by showing how what souvenirs transmit is ambiguous and depends on different interpretations and meanings attached to them by different audiences. For conflict professionals who buy these items, they are a way to bridge the gap of their home experience and their life in intervention context. Souvenirs can help mitigate the ‘liminal’ existence that many security professionals, aid workers or embassy staff experience during missions in intervened countries. At the same time, they reify the tropes and narratives about the intervened countries and peoples and thus shape the way interventions are understood, conducted and practised.

Further data

Item Type: Article in a journal
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Lisa Smirl; liminality; intervention spaces; objects scorpions; ambiguity analysis; orientalism; othering; stereotypes; narratives; humanitarian morality; materialism
Institutions of the University: Faculties
Faculties > Faculty of Cultural Studies
Faculties > Faculty of Cultural Studies > Chair Sociology of Africa
Faculties > Faculty of Cultural Studies > Chair Sociology of Africa > Chair Sociology of Africa - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Jana Hönke
Result of work at the UBT: No
DDC Subjects: 300 Social sciences
300 Social sciences > 320 Political science
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2023 13:55
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2023 13:55