Romain Malejacq on Warlords and State Building in Afghanistan

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 While the physical #ISA2020 Annual Conference has been canceled, we’ve created this new online portal so you can take advantage of the book deals normally only given to conference attendees. Our featured International Studies books are now available to everyone with our special virtual booth forty percent discount—use the promo code 09EXP40 to save. Enjoy!

We asked author Romain Malejacq some questions about his new book Warlord Survival and his research on warlords and state-building in Afghanistan.

What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

One anecdote that I like is about a well-known warlord asking me about my favorite place in his city. I blanked, then started talking about the great mosque. That man is very religious, so I thought he’d be pleased. He wasn’t. He asked my interpreter if I had been to his Jihad museum (a museum that celebrates his personal role in the Soviet-Afghan war). The interpreter replied that I had. The warlord just stopped talking to me for what seemed like an eternity. What I didn’t know then is that the leader of that mosque is his main political rival.

What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book, that you know now?

Writing this book was a learning process. I don’t really wish I already knew how to do it all. Writing the book was difficult; it was frustrating, but I actually enjoyed it. What I found particularly challenging, apart from conducting the research, was finding my voice. I had general ideas about the book I wanted to write, the audience I was writing for, but truly figuring out exactly how I wanted to write it took me quite some time (and many more drafts). Knowing that earlier, if at all possible, would definitely have saved me a great bunch of time.

How do you wish you could change the field of International Studies?

As a field, International studies in Europe and the United States is still very much self-centered. For the most part, it still revolves around Western scholarship. Yet, we cannot pretend to study international affairs without engaging with approaches and scholarship from all over the globe. We need more collaborations and partnerships between scholars and institutions from different of the world. And we need to be more open-minded and less cliquish in our writing and reviewing. I believe things are getting better, but slowly. If I could change something, I would make sure intellectual diversity is valued more systematically.

Romain Malejacq is Assistant Professor at the Centre for International Conflict Analysis & Management at Radboud University Nijmegen. Follow him on Twitter @afghanopoly.

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