Author of Under Contract: The Invisible Workers of America’s Global Wars to Speak at Norwich

Noah Coburn is a socio-cultural anthropologist focusing on political structures and violence in the Middle East and Central Asia.

War is one of the most lucrative job markets for an increasingly global workforce. Most of the work on American bases, everything from manning guard towers to cleaning the latrines to more technical engineering and accounting jobs, has been outsourced to private firms that then contract out individual jobs, often to the lowest bidder. An “American” base in Afghanistan or Iraq will be staffed with workers from places like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Turkey, Bosnia, and Nepal: so-called “third-country nationals.” Tens of thousands of these workers are now fixtures on American bases. Yet, in the plethora of records kept by the U.S. government, they are unseen and uncounted—their stories untold.

Noah Coburn

April 19, 2019

Noon to 1 p.m.

Todd Multipurpose Room, Kreitzberg Library

At Bennington College Noah Coburn teaches courses on the overlap of politics, power, and culture. He has conducted field research in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Nepal, India, and Turkey. His book, Bazaar Politics: Power and Pottery in an Afghan Market Town (Stanford University Press 2011), based upon 18 months of research with groups of potters in the town of Istalif, some 30 miles north of Kabul, 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 Times, the Financial Times, and elsewhere. His more recent work has focused on South Asian private security contractors in Afghanistan and in 2018 he published Under Contract: The Invisible Workers of America’s Global Wars.

A book signing will immediately follow this event, which is sponsored by the NU Peace and War Center (PAWC). This lecture is free and open to the public. 


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