Intergenerational Connections and Futures: Afghanistan

Project Summary 

Placement, Preservation, and Perseverance: Afghan At-Risk Scholars, Activists, and Students is a project funded by the IDRC that aims to address the current crisis in Afghanistan– specifically those in the higher education community which has been heavily targeted by the Taliban. A lead team of faculty, students, and scholars from Carleton University and UBC are collaborating on this 30-month-long project which will eventually include Afghan scholars, activists and students from across Canada. The project supports scholars, civil society actors, activists, and journalists from Afghanistan, especially women and ethnic minorities, who have been forced to flee as a result of the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban after August of 2021. The project seeks to empower their integration into new homes and scholarly and civil society communities, whilst leveraging their intellectual contributions to Afghanistan’s past, present, and future. 

The project has three main programmatic areas: Placement as Process, Preserving Knowledge, and Intergenerational Connections and Futures. Intergenerational Connections and Futures (ICF) is the UBC arm of the project and it aims to connect Afghan students in the diaspora with each other and with Afghan at-risk scholars and activists to discuss, exchange ideas, and document possible ‘pathways’ for the socio-political development of Afghanistan. This programmatic area will contribute to informing research, policy, and practice, and international debates about how best to respond to humanitarian, political, and development crises in Afghanistan in the short- and medium-term (and in similar contexts in the future).

Project details

Objectives, activities, and outcomes

The take-over of Afghanistan by the Taliban has led to multiple, intersecting humanitarian and political crises. Of these many emergencies, notable is the impact of Taliban rule on the higher education sector. Their attacks and imposed limitations on universities, colleges, faculty, and students threaten academic freedom, the preservation of past and current local knowledge(s), and the opportunity for future knowledge production by the wider Afghan society. Whilst much of the work of the ICF project focuses on disruptions to the Afghan knowledge systems and networks in the present moment, this program area will also address the ways in which disruptions to knowledge communities have long-term and temporal impacts. 

As part of the project, there will be networking and mentoring events at the annual conferences. An outcome of these activities will be a more sustainable mentoring and networking ‘hub’ to support ongoing scholarly community building between students and at-risk scholars and activists (ASAs) past the project end date. The format of the network and mentoring program will be guided by the participants on needs and desired outcomes for scholarly and professional development. Afghan students and ASAs across Canada will be invited to participate in the program developed.

Much of the team’s work will also focus on the type of connections required to facilitate further research collaborations on future visions for Afghanistan. At annual conferences and virtual check-ins will also see time dedicated to formulating more specific discussions of future scholarly collaborations (either student to student or student-ASA driven). These discussions will include, but not be limited to, how best to respond to humanitarian, political, and development crises in Afghanistan in the short- and medium-term (and in similar contexts in the future). 

This summer, the team of three Afghan students at UBC is working to create a Web presence for the project as a first step toward building and strengthening an Afghan Diaspora Students and ASAs’ Network in Canada. They are also working on three individual research papers that aim to explore, analyze and understand what knowledge networks, diaspora knowledge networks, and knowledge transfers are, how and where they operate and why they are important in today’s context for Afghanistan. In addition, the students will lead the organization of partner outreach and the creation and facilitation of focus group sessions.

The long-term outcome of this project in addition to the empowerment of Afghan ASAs and students, the Afghan diaspora networks, and the Afghan knowledge communities is bringing new perspectives to the inter-generational networks and future practices and policies.