Dr. M. Jamil Hanifi was born and raised in an urban Pashtun tribal social environment in preindustrial Afghanistan. He maintains native-level competence in Farsi and Pashtu- the two major languages of Afghanistan. He holds a BSc in police administration and MA in political science from Michigan State University. With innocent ambivalence and a novice academic interest in the contrast between his tribal background and hyper-modern American culture he continued his graduate studies in the combined anthropology and sociology program at MSU in 1963. Two events during 1963 and 1964 played a major role in causing him to follow his comparative interest in the context of anthropology: Professor Bernard Gallin’s “history of anthropological theory” course and public lectures at MSU by W. Lloyd Warner and Eric Wolf. The separation of the anthropology and sociology departments into two separate units during 1965 caused Dr. Hanifi (and a number of other students) to migrate to other universities. Dr. Hanifi ended up at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale from where he received his doctorate in cultural anthropology during 1969.
Following graduation, Dr. Hanifi taught anthropology at California State University-Los Angeles from 1968 to 1969 and at Northern Illinois University from 1969 to 1982. Family reasons caused Dr. Hanifi and his family to return to Michigan during 1990, where he received adjunct faculty status in the MSU Department of Anthropology. He taught ANP 491 Anthropology of the Middle East during Fall semester 2012.
Dr. Hanifi has conducted ethnographic research in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Pakistan and Tajikistan-SSR with funding from the American Philosophical Society, Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship, United States National Academy of Sciences, USSR Academy of Sciences, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A current ethnological research project dealing with Afghanistan is funded by the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies. His ethnographic interest in Afghanistan and North America is ongoing and cradles a current research and writing project that will result in a two volume anthropological autobiography: “Growing up in Afghanistan: an ethnographic retrospective” and “Learning American as an ‘Other’”.
During the 1970s and 1980s Hanifi wrote several journal articles, chapters and reviews dealing with anthropology, history and the ethnology of the Middle East and Central Asia. During the past two decades he has published articles, brief essays, reviews and chapters in the Critique of Anthropology, Iranian Studies, Anthropology News, Anthropos, Journal of Anthropological Research, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, the 2000 AAA publication “Rethinking Refuge and Displacement” and the 2010 Middle East Institute volume about Afghanistan. Hanifi is the author of several entries dealing with Afghanistan in Encyclopaedia Iranica. Some of his academic and political writings are posted on Zero Anthropology blog. Farsi translations of some of his essays are published in Omaid Weekly and posted on Khorasan Zameen and Zahedan Press. His article titled “Concocting the ‘Other’ in Afghanistan” is in press.
Hanifi’s current research and writing projects include: Interrogating Euro-American “Fieldwork” in Afghanistan; Crypto-Colonial Hegemony in Afghanistan; What is an “Afghan”?; the myth of Pashtun domination and rule in Afghanistan; an ethnographic and historical analysis of the 1932-1955 Salnamas; Changing patterns of personal names and identity politics in Afghanistan; power relations and honorific titles for men and women in Afghan households. He is also working on two joint writing projects with his son, Dr. Shah Mahmoud Hanifi, a professor of history at James Madison University. These projects deal with the ethnology and colonial history of Afghanistan.
This article is in the Department of Anthropology’s Spring 2015 Newsletter, see the entire newsletter here.