Noah Coburn

Home > About


Noah Coburn: Researching, Writing and Teaching about Afghanistan and Beyond

Noah is a socio-cultural anthropologist focusing on political structures and violence in the Middle East and Central Asia. At Bennington he teaches courses on the overlap of politics, power and culture. He has conducted over 5 years of field research in Afghanistan, and has also conducted field research in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

During winter break at Bennington College, students are encouraged to participate in Field Work Term, a seven week, off campus experience in which students pursue jobs and internship. FWT often involves travel, both within the United States, and abroad. Read about what Noah and some of his students are up to over Field Work Term, on their blog: FWT in the Field

During FWT, Noah traveled back to Afghanistan, where his research has most recently led him to study how young Afghans are responding to the upcoming Presidential election. Read his latest article on Youth Mobilization and Political Constraints in Afghanistan.

In 2006-2008 Noah spent 18 months with a group of potters in the town of Istalif, some 30 miles north of Kabul. His book, Bazaar Politics: Power and Pottery in an Afghan Market Town, explains how various lineages of potters and other craftspeople in town worked together to maintain peace even while the insurgency grew rapidly in neighboring districts. This first full length ethnography from Afghanistan since the 1970s was reviewed in The New York TimesThe Financial Times and elsewhere.

More recently, Noah has conducted extensive research on elections and dispute resolution in several different provinces across Afghanistan.  His book with Anna Larson Derailing Democracy in Afghanistan: Elections in an Unstable Political Landscape, looks at how elections actually undermined democratic values in the country after the initial US invasion.

He has published numerous articles and reports for a variety of think tanks in Washington and Kabul, including the United States Institute of Peace, the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit and the Agha Khan Trust for Culture.  For a complete list of publications, click here.

Noah received his doctorate in anthropology from Boston University in 2010; MA in regional studies, Columbia University; BA, Williams College. He has taught at the American University of Afghanistan, Boston University, the University of Michigan and Skidmore College.

Noah joined the Bennington faculty in fall 2012.  

Courses taught: The Anthropology of International Intervention, Violence, Politics and Culture, The Anthropology of Religion, Anthropological Research Methodologies, Cultural Localities, Power and Society in the Middle East, Ethnography and Writing across Cultures