Speakers’ Biographies

Khadija Abbasi holds a BA in English Persian translation from Tehran’s Islamic Azad University and a MSc in Gender and Development from the London School of Economics. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Anthropology and Sociology department of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. Khadija’s research is an auto-ethnographic account of her refugeehood as well as her community (Hazaras of Afghanistan) in Iran, Afghanistan and the UK. She has worked for various local and international NGOs in Iran, Afghanistan and Britain.

In a joint research project (the Graduate Institute, University of Zurich and Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) on Uzbek communities in Central Asia, Khadija conducted field research among Uzbeks of Mazar-e Sharif (Northern Afghanistan), focusing on their interethnic relations. In collaboration with Alessandro Monsutti, she was involved in research for the University of Oxford on becoming an adult during migration, focusing on young Afghans and their experience of mobility and adulthood. Two papers are forthcoming based on the two previously mentioned research projects. Khadija has also published a chapter, Young Afghanistani Refugees in Iran: Professional Training, Work and Perspectives, in the volume Afghanistan: Identity, Society and Politics since 1980 edited by Micheline Centlivres-Demont.

Naysan Adlparvar is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Program in Iranian Studies at Yale University. He was awarded a Rice Faculty Fellowship for the 2017-18 academic year. Naysan recently completed his PhD thesis, at the University of Sussex’s Institute of Development Studies, investigating the impacts of post-2001 political reconstruction upon inter-ethnic relations in Afghanistan’s Bamyan Valley. In 2016, Naysan published an article entitled The Evolution of Ethnicity Theory: Intersectionality, Geopolitics and Development, which discusses the development of, and potential new frontiers of research in, ethnicity theory. He also co-authored the article Afghan Values or Women’s Rights? Gendered Narratives about Continuity and Change in Urban Afghanistan (2011). Naysan is currently preparing his PhD research for publication as a book and as a number of journal articles.

Naysan has spent almost a decade working for NGOs and the United Nations in Afghanistan, Jordan and Iraq. In this capacity, he has led and published poverty assessments on Iraq and Afghanistan. He currently advises UNDP, in New York, supporting the development of policy and program guidance on governance and peacebuilding in fragile and conflict-affected settings.

Thomas Barfield is Professor and Chair of Anthropology at Boston University, where he also directs the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilization. Tom is also the current President of the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies (AIAS). He received his PhD from Harvard University.
Tom has published extensively on Afghanistan. Notably, he is the author of The Central Asian Arabs of Afghanistan (1981) and co-author of Afghanistan: An Atlas of Indigenous Domestic Architecture (1991). His most recent book is Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History (Princeton, 2010).

Andrea Chiovenda is a post-doctoral research assistant in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and an affiliated faculty member at Emerson College, Boston. He received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Boston University in 2015, and a Master’s in Security Studies from Georgetown University in 2009. His research interests revolve around psychological and psychiatric anthropology, masculinity, and refugee studies. His most recent and ongoing project focuses on psychological suffering among Afghan refugees in Greece. His current and previous research was made possible in part by grants from the Lemelson Foundation, the American Institute for Afghanistan Studies, and the department of Anthropology at Boston University.

The book based on Andrea’s ethnographic research in Afghanistan, titled Crafting Masculine Selves: War, Culture and Psychodynamics among Afghan Pashtuns, is forthcoming for Oxford University Press. Two book chapters in edited volumes are being published in 2018, as well as an original article in Ethos, the academic journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology.

Melissa Chiovenda is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, and an affiliated faculty member at Emerson College. She completed a PhD in Anthropology at the University of Connecticut and an MA in Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies at Georgetown University.

Melissa is currently revising her dissertation for publication. Her chapter entitled Hazara Civil Society Activists and Local, National, and International Political Institutions will be published by Indiana University Press in the edited volume titled Modern Afghanistan: The Impact of 40 Years of War in April 2018, and her chapter Memory, History, and Landscape: Ethnic Hazaras’ Understanding of Marginality in Bamyan, Afghanistan was published by Lexington Books in 2015 in the edited volume State, Society, and Minorities in South and Southeast Asia. Melissa has, over the summers of 2016 and 2017, started a second research project concerning the political identity of Afghan refugees in Athens, Greece.

Nafay Choudhury is a PhD candidate in Law at King’s College London. His research was awarded the Simon Roberts Award by the Modern Law Review for the best thesis proposal on legal ethnography and legal anthropology, as well as full funding from the Canadian government (SSHRC Doctoral Scholar). Nafay’s areas of research include legal anthropology, sociology of law, rule of law, legal development, Islamic law, and legal pluralism. He is currently a residential Research Fellow at the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies researching on electoral reforms. Nafay was previously Assistant Professor of Law at the American University of Afghanistan, which he joined as a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Afghanistan Legal Education Project at Stanford Law School. He helped to establish the country’s first English-medium law program, which included designing the curriculum, and taught courses in contract law, torts, comparative law, traditional justice, and private international law.

Nafay has published articles on legal pluralism in Afghanistan in the Asian Journal of Law & Society and the Suffolk Transnational Law Review, and on Afghan madrasas in Religion, State & Society. During his tenure as Visiting Research Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, he authored an article on the effects of globalization on Afghan taxi drivers, forthcoming in the Afghan Journal of Legal Studies. Nafayalso served as a Shari’ah Advisor for the Afghanistan International Bank. He holds a JD/BCL(McGill), MA (Queen’s, Canada) in economics, and BA (McGill) in economics.

Antonio Donini is Visiting Fellow at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University and Research Associate at the Global Migration Centre at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. He works on issues relating to humanitarianism, the future of humanitarian action and migration. From 2002 to 2004, Antonio was a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. He has worked for 26 years in the United Nations in research, evaluation, and humanitarian capacities. Antonio’s last post was as Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (1999-2002). Before going to Afghanistan he was chief of the Lessons Learned Unit at OCHA, where he managed a program of independent studies on the effectiveness of relief efforts in complex emergencies.

Antonio has published widely on evaluation, humanitarian, and UN reform issues. In 2004, he co-edited the volume Nation-Building Unraveled? Aid, Peace, and Justice in Afghanistan (Kumarian Press); he was also the main author of The Golden Fleece: Manipulation and Independence in Humanitarian Action (Kumarian Press). Antonio has published numerous reports and articles exploring the implications of the crises in Afghanistan and Iraq for the future of humanitarian action, on local perceptions of humanitarian agencies and on humanitarian policy issues.  He is co-author of Planning from the Future: Is the humanitarian system fit for purpose? (www.planningfromthefuture.org), a major 2016 report that examines blockages in the humanitarian system and the potential for a major overhaul.

David Edwards is Professor of Anthropology at Williams College. He received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Michigan. David is author of Heroes of the Age: Moral Fault Lines on the Afghan Frontier (University of California Press, 1996), Before Taliban: Genealogies of the Afghan Jihad (University of California Press, 2002), and most recently Caravan of Martyrs: Sacrifice and Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan (University of California Press, 2017). In addition, he has published numerous academic chapters and articles on Afghanistan. He has also published with New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday and Kansas City Star.

David received a Fulbright Fellowship (2012-13), an Open Society Institute Fellowship (2004-5) and was a Carnegie Scholar (2003-4). He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the American University of Afghanistan.

Niamatullah Ibrahimi is an Associated Research Fellow at Deakin University. He recently completed his PhD in Political Science at the Australian National University, for which he was awarded an Endeavour Scholarship. He also received a degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

His research interests include the dynamics of social mobilisation, political movements, and state formation in Afghanistan. He is the author of The Hazaras and the Afghan State: Rebellion, Exclusion and Struggle for Recognition (London: Hurst & Co. 2017) and a wide range of other articles, research papers and book chapters. These include, most recently, the book chapter Afghanistan’s Political Parties: A Tale of Incomplete Reform and Transformation (2017, with Srinjoy Bose) and article, Framing Ethnicity under Conditions of Uncertainty: The Case of Hazaras during Afghanistan’s 2014 Presidential Elections (2016), published in the Journal of Conflict, Security & Development.


Alessandro Monsutti is trained as a social anthropologist. He is Professor and Chair of the Anthropology and Sociology department at the Graduate Institute of Development Studies. Alessandro has been Research Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies (1999-2000) and Yale University (2008-2010), Grantee of the MacArthur Foundation (2004-2006), and Visiting Professor at the University of Vienna (2012) and Arizona State University (2014). He is also Research Associate at the Refugee Studies Centre (University of Oxford). In addition, he has worked as a consultant for several international and nongovernmental organizations such as UNHCR.

Alessandro has conducted multi-sited research since the mid-1990s in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran to study the modes of solidarity and cooperation mobilized in a situation of conflict and forced migration. He has subsequently broadened the geographical scope of his research to include members of the Afghan diaspora living in Western countries. This led him to analyze war and post-conflict reconstruction in the light of the social networks and economic strategies developed by refugees and migrants, and—more generally—to address theoretical and methodological issues related to globalization. Among his current research interests are the political economy of reconstruction in Afghanistan, as an example of emerging forms of sovereignty and global governance; asylum seekers and refugees in Europe; migrants and non-migrants in urban neighborhoods; and, the changing nature of borderlands in Europe and South Asia.

M. Nazif Shahrani is Professor of Anthropology, Central Asian and Middle East Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. He received his PhD from the University of Washington, Seattle in 1976. He has received an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for International Scholars.

He has published extensively on Afghanistan, including his book The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan: Adaptation to Closed Frontiers and War (2002). In April 2018, he will be releasing a new edition of his co-edited book (Indiana University Press, with Robert Canfield) Revolutions and Rebellions in Afghanistan: Anthropological Perspectives, and his edited collection Modern Afghanistan: The Impact of 40 Years of War (Indiana University Press).

Omar Sharifi is the former Senior Research Fellow and Kabul Director of the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies (AIAS). He is also a member of the advisory board of the Civil Society Development Center (CSDC) and member of the Board of Directors of the Afghan Alumni Association and Afghanistan 1400.  In addition, Omar worked as a National Consultant for UNICEF Afghanistan. He is an Asia Society Fellow and a member of Afghan 21 Young Leaders Forum.

Omar graduated from Kabul Medical Institute in 2003. Following his medical studies, he worked as Head of Research and Publications for the Foundation for Culture and Civil Society in Kabul, and as Director of the Open Media Fund for Afghanistan. From 2006 to 2008, Omar studied Cultural Anthropology at Columbia University in New York under a Fulbright Fellowship. He also received a fellowship at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University. Currently, Omar is a PhD Candidate at Boston University in the department of Anthropology. He has written several essays on social and political issues in Afghanistan, and his articles have been published in national and international journals.