Date of Award

Summer 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Timothy May


The Wakhan Corridor in northeastern Afghanistan has historically functioned as an important thoroughfare along the famed "Silk Road". During the nineteenth century, however, the expansion of interior imperial exploration, coupled with the "Great Game", and the struggle for land domination in Central Asia brought about a change in the geostrategic significance of the territory. With respect to trade and profit, imperial agendas gave rise to the centralized reign of Abdur Rahman Khan, and the eventual suppression of the Corridor's Kirghiz and Wakhi population during hte era. This thesis will show that while the Wakhan functioned as a progenitor of trade and cross-cultural sharing long before the divisive actions of Western imperialism, the impacts of Abdur Rahman Khan's centralization policies and the evolving geopolitical theater in the region had sever consequences for the nomadic and pastoralist societies that called the Wakhan home. The tribes possessed their own microcosms of cultural and socioeconomic practices and traditions before Western explorers and agents of empire accessed the region. Additionally, it is the aim of this thesis to provide a counter-argument to the trope of mountains as naturally occurring spaces of refuge for their populations due in large part to remoteness and verticality. Arguably, the Wakhan served as a zone of contact rather than a space of seclusion during this Imperial era.

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