Afghanistan Elections to be Focus of April 15 Skidmore Talk

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A political anthropologist who has written two recent books about Afghanistan will lecture on that country's recent elections April 15 at Skidmore College.
"Elections Are Not What You Think They Are: Youth, Intervention, and the Future of Afghanistan," will be discussed by Noah Coburn of Bennington College. Free and open to the public, the talk gets under way at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 15, in Filene Recital Hall, in Filene Hall on the Skidmore campus. A reception will follow.
He explains, "After 13 years of NGOs, international troops, aid money and diplomacy, the intervention in Afghanistan appears to be winding down. The 2014 elections will mark a clear point of transition. What lies ahead, particularly for the youth of Afghanistan? What is the impact of aid on governance structures? Looking particularly at youth participation in the recent elections, this talk will examine the legacy of the intervention in Afghanistan and in particular the ways in which elections have reshaped the political landscape."
Coburn just returned from monitoring the presidential and provincial council elections in Afghanistan for Chatham House. He previously worked as a specialist for the United States Institute of Peace in Kabul, Afghanistan, as well as a researcher for the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Between 2006 and 2008, he spent 18 months doing research in an Afghan village on the Shomali Plain.
He is the co-author (with Anna Larson) of Derailing Democracy in Afghanistan (2014, Columbia University Press), which, according to the publisher, "builds an in-depth portrait of Afghanistan's recent elections as experienced by individuals and communities, while revealing how the elections have in fact actively contributed to instability, undermining the prospects of democracy in Afghanistan." Coburn also wrote Bazaar Politics-Power and Pottery in an Afghan Market Town (2011, Stanford University Press), the first long-term on-the-ground study of Afghanistan since the arrival of allied forces in 2001. The author reveals the ways in which the international community has misunderstood the forces driving local conflict and the insurgency, misunderstandings that have ultimately contributed to the political unrest rather than resolved it.

Coburn's talk is scheduled in conjunction with Saratoga Reads, whose current book of choice is And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini.

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