proper concern of his discipline (Gouldner 8). To simply prefer The words under consideration are the Avestan (Iranian) dnhp and the Sanskrit da~pr . Traces of early Zoroastrian and Aryan Avesta culture may be found in old Gouldner A.W., – The Norm of Reciprocity: A Preliminary Statement. In Gouldner’s view, it is thus, I would infer, formative of society but prior to the .. ended with prayers in Avestan, and the intrusion of secular conversation was.

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Imagining alternative futures in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan is as difficult as it is necessary. Development efforts in the Pamirs are hampered by i real and imagined agro-ecological limits, ii terrific geopolitical, institutional and social challenges, and related to both, iii a strong lack of imagination. This crisis of imagination partly springs from a narrow reading of history, which obscures much of the wealth of the Pamirs and its people, including elements crucial to their ability to develop in a sovereign manner.


The perspectives presented are drawn from fieldwork conducted over a period of four years in the Pamirs. Viewed through the lens of food, alternatives emerge that may help formulate a more endogenous vision for development. The tension between them can be observed, albeit rarely explicated, in the mountainous region of the Western Pamirs of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, where international development agencies seek to improve the livelihoods of the rural population.

Here, like elsewhere, questions outnumber solutions, and imagining alternatives that combine local and foreign aspirations in a helpful manner is deeply challenging. The intention of this paper, however, is not to debate the truth of that assertion: By casting light on elements of Pamiri society that are important to its identity and wellbeing and may not be captured in prevalent indicators of progress we suggest a different angle from which to consider Pamiri development and its accomplishments.

The elements we refer to emerged from conversations we had over a period of four years of goulrner but intensive fieldwork: While a sense of pride about Pamiri culture and its humanity often manifested in these talks, so did strong doubts and discontent regarding the changes taking place in the Pamirs, and the effects of these changes on health and wellbeing.

Apart from some instances see Bliss on general socio-economic changes; Kassam and Kassam et al on traditional knowledge and medicine; KanjiGiuliani et al and Kreutzmann on markets and the shift from barter trade to monetary markets; Koen on music, spirituality, and health; Nabhan and Van Oudenhoven on agricultural biodiversity they gouodner sparsely documented in written studies and not yet part of a well-defined debate about development practice.

Many people dare not have hopes about the future — gpuldner result of the many conflicts of the past decades — and say so specifically: In this context, it was striking to see how food, as an event or a topic of conversation, often inspired reflections and ideas about current developments and possible futures.

Particularly women and older people, who are rarely heard in discussions about development in the Pamirs, spoke to us in this way. Their ideas provided the main material for this paper.

In a sense, talking through food helps to stay close to the original meaning of conversations: It is an intimate and honest, even instinctive way to understand a people, a place, and their combined history. Food is also strongly evocative. Speaking and thinking about food brings up memories and ideas, especially in a place where traditional agriculture has been the mainstay of daily survival for millennia. Lastly, not unlike a good recipe in which different ingredients blend together, but keep their own qualities, food brings together very different elements of life, at different scales, without effacing their individual characteristics.

Goulner connects the minutiae of daily life to goulrner that are as large as international trade patterns, and so helps people understand the developments that are increasingly affecting them. Findings presented are from villages along the upper reaches of the Panj river from the Wakhan corridor through to Aevstawhich is also the border between the two countries, and more remote villages in the valleys formed by its tributaries figure 1.

It would be his duty to teach them how to live and to see to it that all living things prosper. This is how life came from the high mountains of the Pamirs and spread throughout the world, and when, much later, the Pamirs again became covered in ice and life there disappeared, it was from these surrounding other countries, from India, and Persia, that people came back and repopulated these mountains.

They are the ancestors of the people that live here now. Most accounts of Pamiri history would not include the story given above; the Pamirs have been represented mainly through the eyes of foreigners—Chinese travellers, Marco Polo, Russian and English explorers and spies Polo ; Hiuen Tsiang ; Steveni ; Younghusband When not discussing the harsh beauty of the landscape and the personal challenges involved in traversing it, they concentrated their writings on geopolitical developments the movement of borders, kings, and empires Holt and Lewis and occasional descriptions of the Pamiri people and their modes of subsistence Vavilov and Bukinich ; Gouldnef Current historical accounts, presented for context in the following paragraphs, similarly use a rather foreign, factual perspective.


Traces of early Zoroastrian and Aryan Avesta culture may be found in old buildings and in some customs, which are still practiced Bliss Their relative isolation meant that the Pamirs were largely spared the destruction that befell other parts of Central Asia under the hands of Genghis Khan, Timur and others, although wars between local fiefdoms and periodic slave raids by Afghan rulers Steveni affected the population until well into the gluldner th century.

The border, drawn along the river Panj the Pamiri name for the upper reaches of the Amu Daryasevered trade relationships and separated communities and families whose members lived on both sides of the river. It achieved high standards of living not seen before or after; unemployment was virtually non-existent and literacy was and remains at 99 per cent Breu and Hurni The Afghan avseta of the river did not benefit from these developments.

While ethnicity Ismailism and the Hindu Kush mountain range isolated the population to some extent from the wars in the rest of the country, these factors also meant that virtually no government support or aid were received. Avesa more recent years, specifically after the Mujahideen left the region inthe situation stabilized somewhat.

International aid agencies have a strong presence in Badakhshan, which remains one of the only regions of Afghanistan without significant insurgent activity.

Still, it is commonly considered one of the more destitute places on earth and has the highest maternal mortality indicators gouldnfr recorded, at 6, perlive births Walraven et al.

Local and regional institutions continued to persist throughout the civil war, but their failure to adapt to their new positions has led to a political economy of rent seeking and extensive corruption Bates ; Hiro Depending on circumstances war or peacethe nature of their activities fluctuated between humanitarian assistance and development aid.

Their role in the survival of the Pamiri population gave them the legitimacy to later take on the role of a de facto government De Cordier ; Kanji for the many areas in gouldnsr the local governments have limited capacity or financial means, or where they fail altogether: With such a historical narrative as its basic justification, it is perhaps not surprising to find here a relatively conservative development approach: The question arises, however, whether the market is the most effective mechanism for enabling development, and, more importantly, whether it agrees with the ethics, values and qualities of the Pamiri people.

The remaining sections of this paper will suggest additional elements of Pamiri history and identity that are rooted in narratives about food.

Development activities predicated on memory will be different from those based on a linear account of history and, arguably, allow for greater flexibility and creativity in responding to environmental, economic or geopolitical changes. Most of the world has caught on to the severity of the ecological crisis and development agencies are well aware of its implications for their work in improving human wellbeing.

Specific elements of this crisis have reached the Pamirs and are often mentioned as limits or impediments to development.

Melting glaciers endanger the future of agriculture, almost all of which is irrigated from glacial runoff. Increasingly unpredictable weather and seasonal changes put harvests at risk. Overgrazing, cutting of fruit trees, and overexploitation of wild plants and trees for firewood cause erosion and desertification. Considering the poor soil quality and extreme scarcity of arable land 0. The distinction is a matter of perspective: On the plateaux, where crops might grow, there was no water.

In other places, where water could be found, there was no land or soil to apply it to. The entire agricultural landscape of the Pamirs, as it exists today, was created by man Aknazarov ; Vavilov Avesha now, enterprising farmers continue, with the same skill, labour, and patience, to channel water, move rocks and soil, and domesticate and adapt seeds van Oudenhoven It shows that neither the landscape, nor its agroecological limits are absolute, aveesta exist in interdependence with the activity of guldner people that inhabit it.

In numerous villages there is, today, less land under cultivation than there was previously, because the people who cultivated it have left: Environmental degradation, in this instance, is caused by a lack of human use. The first, which he dismisses, is external: This view gives rise to the perception of agroecological limits. The Pamir agricultural landscape.

In the foreground a special place for oguldner threshing and cleaning of cereal grains in the village of Jomarj-i-Bolo, Afghan Darvaz. Across goulvner river, in Tajikistan, the beginning of the valley of Vanch.


The cultivation of these crops is the most ancient gouldndr traditional element of Pamiri agriculture Vavilov and Bukinich ; Vavilov and the small irregular and beautifully coloured plots form an inseparable part of its landscape.

Diversity in these crops exists at several levels: Important leguminosae include a small type of faba bean Vicia faba var. An important additional aspect of many local crops is their use for medicinal purposes. It is said to contribute to the treatment of over 70 ailments. Afghan women baking wheat bread in a traditional goulsner, called kitsor. Preparing patak garthaor grass pea bread.

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It is made with a mixture of grass pea flour and either wheat or rye flour. More to the south India, Pakistangrass pea is considered a crop of the poor; it causes lathyrism an irreversible paralysis of the lower limbs when not cooked properly. While lathyrism is known also in the Pamirs, it is quite rare. They would then sleep in a warm place, around the kitsorand twist their legs in the morning. A man from Roshtkhala Tjk holding freshly-made barley bread noni jowin.

Most bread in GBAO is now made with wheat flour, but barley is important because like rye and fingermillet it ripens much earlier than wheat. It is used in spring, when food reserves are low, and played an important role in times of food scarcity, during the wars.

Despite imperfections, the system so created is uniquely suited to the Pamirs and fosters a rich source of ingenuity and resilience. An example of the former is the introduction of a high-yielding wheat variety during the Tajik Civil war. After two years it became clear that the new wheat moulded while left to dry on the field and that its taste was poor.

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By then, no alternatives seemed left. Finally, a few farmers crossed the river to Afghanistan, recovered their ancestral varieties there and distributed them amongst their communities. While relatively extreme, this example is by no means unique. Several years ago, the agricultural office in Afghan Shugnan handed farmers a package with an improved European wheat variety and the corresponding necessary fertilizers diammonium phosphate, applied before sowing and urea, during growing.

Local wheat is grown without chemical fertilizers, which are prohibitively expensive animal manure is used instead and, not surprisingly, the new fertilized wheat grew beautifully tall and provided a good harvest. Equally unsurprising, the extra demands posed on the soil meant that yields dropped after two years, and the taste of the flour poorly suited the dishes traditionally prepared with it.

The irony of these programmes lies not just in the fact that exotic fruit varieties are ill-adapted to the growing conditions of the Pamirs and, therefore, more susceptible to pests and diseases and short-lived they generally dry out and die after years, compared to ten times that for local varietiesbut also in that they are introduced in a region that is itself an important centre of diversity for all of these crops.

The different agricultural diversities discussed above exist precisely because they are connected in a cyclic and iterative manner through a central node—the farmer—who is both producer and consumer. Demand and supply for different tastes, uses, nutritional and medicinal properties emerge in and are met by one and the same person, family, or community, who act on diversity through the selection of diverse traits and plants, and the creation and acculturation of landscape niches.

In the system of barter trade that exists in the Pamirs to some degree until today, the contact between producers and consumers remains sufficiently close for diversity to be valued.

Conversely, as soon as the geographical and mental cultural distance between producer and consumer increases, as is the case with the system of market capitalism promoted by development agencies, the value of diversity decreases and diversity itself suffers a blow.

That this is not merely a matter of landscape conservation and aesthetics is clear when people speak about their health, which they often say has deteriorated as compared to previous generations. They have money, because they are not dependent on the global economy. Their clothes are much better, because there is a tailor in every village.

There are no tailors in Tajikistan. Our food, our economy, our clothes, are all better. We can sustain ourselves, we have autonomy over what we eat. They have become very dependent on others.