Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Pashtun inhabit southern and eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan. Their language is Pushto (Pashto), in the Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. Except for a small minority, they are Sunni Muslims. Until recently, Pashtun dynasties controlled the tribal kingdom of Afghanistan. Agriculture, primarily grain farming, and animal husbandry are the most important activities in the Pashtun economy. The most important crop is wheat. In addition to raising stock, nomads as well as some farmers engage in trade and moneylending. The presence of the border dividing Pashtun territory into two countries also makes smuggling a lucrative pursuit.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Asia --Central Asia




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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Pashtun collection consists of 21 documents, 20 in English, and one, a translation from the German (Glatzer, 1977, no. 7). The time span covered in these works ranges from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1990s, and relates to a wide range of geographical regions in both Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. Some of the major studies in this file are: Ahmed (1980, no.1), Lindholm (1982, no. 3), Barth (1981, no. 5), Glatzer (1977, no. 7), and for the Ghilzai and Kunar Pashtun, Anderson (1978, no. 22), and Christensen (1980, no. 23). Other major topics given particular attention in this file are: Politics in Ahmed (1980, no. 2), Barth (1965, no. 4), and Lindholm (1986, no. 9); marriage in Tapper (1981, 1982, nos. 13 and 15), Anderson (1982, no. 18), Christensen (1982, no. 19), and Ferdinand (1982, no. 20); and women's status in Tavakolian (1987, no. 10), Tapper (1980, no. 17), Boesen (1980, no. 24), and for the Ghilzai Pashtun, Anderson (1982, no. 26).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article "Pathan" by Akbar S. Ahmed with Paul Titus, in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 3, 1992. Paul Hockings, editor. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in December - January, 2001-2002.

Overview by

John Beierle

ASHAR -- cooperative work groups -- category 476

BADAL -- revenge, feud, vendetta -- category 628

DAFTAR -- the share of land held by a tribesman -- category 423

DASMAL -- pre-wedding festivals -- categories 527, 584, 574

DUMA -- dancing girls who perform for men at marriage parties; to the Pashtun the GHERAT -- charity for personal honor -- category 556

HASTANI, AULAD -- the nuclear family -- category 594

HUJRA -- the male guest house -- categories 485, 574

IMAM -- Koranic scholar wo oversees the mosque -- category 793

JIHAD -- a holy war fought for salvation and a return to Islam -- category 668

JIRGA -- an assembly of elders who regulate life through their decisions -- category 623

KHANS -- an elite title used for citizens of status and especially for landlords -- category 554

KHASSADARS -- semi-official tribal police -- 625, 701

KHEL -- sublineage or clan if group has residential unity -- categories 613, 614

KOR -- the hearth or household -- category 592

MALANG -- wandering mendicants and dervishes -- category 792

MALIKS (SARDAR) -- chiefs or petty chiefs -- political role, 622; kinship role, 613

MELMASTIA -- hospitality to guests -- category 574

MULLAHS -- category 793

NANAWATEE -- to sue for peace, usually with the Koran in hand -- category 728

occupational castes (Swat) -- categories 564, 463

PLARGHANEY -- the extended family -- category 596

P'SHA -- lineage -- category 613

PUKHTUNWALI -- the ideal code of the Pashtun -- category 577

PURDAH -- veiling and seclusion of tribal women -- categories 834, 562

QUAM -- the tribe -- category 619

RAWAJ -- customary law -- category 471

TARBOOR -- father's brother's son (an object of hostility to the Pashtun) -- category 605

TARBOORWALI -- agnatic rivalry -- categories 613, 578, and sometimes 605

TEEGA -- formal and written peace agreements -- category 728

TOR -- preservation of the honor of women -- categories 577, 562

WAQF -- land that is supposed to be used for religious purposes; a religious endowment

WESH --distribution of territory based on filiation in segmentary groups -- category 423

ZAKAT -- charity for religious merit -- category 782

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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