Nicole Ferreira

South & Southeast Asian Studies

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, India-based authors living under the Mughal Empire entered a sustained textual conversation concerning the origins and history of those who they called “Afghan.” The result of this endeavor, which included the participation of Sufis, courtiers, imperial news-writers, and soldiers, was a rich collection of stories about the history of Afghan migration from the Sulaiman mountain range to locations across India, where, as the authors collectively attested, Afghans acted as trailblazers in the foundation of new settlements and rose to positions of leadership in the communities that they chose to inhabit. As my dissertation demonstrates, it was through these texts that Indo-Afghan authors for the first time delineated what it meant to be “Afghan,” discursively constructing an Afghan society that bound its scattered and dispersed members into an “imagined community” set apart by a shared history and common codes of ethical social conduct. While what these authors provided was far from a unitary vision of the Afghan past, they all shared a powerful emphasis on mobility in their emergent conceptions of Afghan identity. As I hope to show, this textual discourse was both influenced by and served as a means to perpetuate Afghan mobility: through it, its architects imagined the myriad of ways through which one could at once belong to the Afghan community, and learn to be at home anywhere in the world.