In the form of a lexicon, artist Mariam Ghani describes, together with her father, the renowned anthropologist and political scientist Ashraf Ghani, the cycle of repeated collapse and recovery that Afghanistan has undergone over the course of the twentieth century. The lexicon comprises seventy-one mostly illustrated terms that include central figures and places, words that carry a specific (political) meaning in the Afghan context, and entries on recurring events and defining themes. The notebook’s point of departure is a detailed reflection on the reign of King Amanullah Khan (1919–29), whose successes and failures yielded a model for reformers who succeeded him. These thoughts are followed by a series of terms related to, among other things, Dar ul-Aman Palace, now a ruin, which was part of Amanullah’s design for a “new city,” and which characterized—as a space of exception, a center of conflict, a prototype for future plans, and a symbol of past failures—twentieth-century Afghan planning policy.
Mariam Ghani (*1978) is an artist based in New York and Kabul. Ashraf Ghani (*1949), author of Fixing Failed States (in English) and A Window to a Just Order (in Dari and Pashtu), lives in Kabul.