Afghanistan Table of Contents

Afghanistan is home to a multiplicity of ethnic and linguistic groups, as well as several sects within Islam and other religions. Historic and geographic factors created and preserved this diversity although varying degrees of cultural assimilation continuously take place and a considerable degree of cultural homogeneity exists.

Ethnicity has been extensively explored by scholars; they often disagree. Any simple classification is bound to have exceptions for Afghan society has never been static within fixed boundaries. The picture has been drawn and redrawn throughout the course of its history.

Further, ethnicity means different things to different groups. Every group uses the identification term qaum to explain a complexity of affiliations, a network, of families or occupations. Each has a rich density of meanings. Every individual belongs to a qaum which provides protection from outside encroachments, cooperation, support, security, and assistance, either social, political or economic. Frequently a village corresponds to a qawm, but it does not necessarily exist in a precise geographic setting. In a more restricted sense qaum refers to descent groups, from family kin to ethnic group. In tribal areas qaum refers to a common genealogy from extended family, or clan, to tribe to tribal confederation. Most simply, qawm defines an individual's identity in his social world.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress