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An unprecedented, rare study of Central Asian politics and their ramifications for the world

Table of contents

Tables and Maps
List of Abbreviations
List of Local Terms
1. Introduction: Why Study Informal Organizations?
2. Studying Informal Organizations
3. What Are Informal Organizations?
4. The Formation of Informal Organizations in Badakhshan
5. The Evolution of Informal Organizations in Tajik/Afghan Badakhshan
6. May 21, 2014
7. Mahallas as Informal Organizations
8. The Silencing Of the Khorog English Preparatory Program
9. The Shahs in Afghan Badakhshan
10. Female Governance in Badakhshan
11. Trafficking In Tajikistan And Afghanistan: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
12. Organized (In)Formalization
13. Getting Played in the Great Game
14. Conclusion: Why Informal Organizations Matter
Appendix: How to Write Tajik Reports


Bridging State and Civil Society provides an in-depth study of parts of Central Asia and Afghanistan that remain marginalized from the larger region. As such, the people have developed distinct ways of governing and surviving, sometimes in spite of the state and in part because of informal organizations. Suzanne Levi-Sanchez provides eight case studies, each an independent look at a particular informal organization, but each also part of a larger picture that helps the reader understand the importance and key role that informal organizations play for civil society and the state. Each case explores how informal organizations operate and investigates their structures and interactions with official state institutions, civil society, familial networks, and development organizations. As such, each chapter explores the concepts through a different lens while asking a deceptively simple question: What is the relationship between informal organizations and the state?

Suzanne Levi-Sanchez is Associate Professor in the National Security Affairs Department at United States Naval War College.

Bridging State and Civil Society is an important book that advances both theory and our understanding of Central Eurasia. By doing careful fieldwork across the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border, the book helps bring together region that continues to be divided due to residues of empire. From a theoretical perspective, the book advances our understanding of the role informal politics plays in local political economies. Finally, the author was an eyewitness to history, chronicling conflict as it played out on both sides of this border region. The book is a wonderful contribution to a growing literature on informal institutions and local politics and a foundational text for those seeking to challenge their assumptions on the social foundations of Central Eurasia.”

—Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili, University of Pittsburgh, author of Informal Order and the State in Afghanistan and Land, the State, and War

- Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili

Bridging State and Civil Society provides an incredible and incisive insight into the workings of civil society in the high Pamirs of Tajikistan and Afghan Badakhshan. Based upon meticulous, personal research, Levi-Sanchez brings to life the challenges faced by people in this remote region with grace and great analytical acuity. This outstanding piece of research and writing is a first-rate volume sure to become a classic.”

—Benjamin P. Hopkins, George Washington University

- Benjamin P. Hopkins

“This is a unique study, based on both scholarship and participant observation, of social and political organization and events in a part of the world that feels remote but is very important . . . a major contribution to the literature on state strength, organization of civil society, state-society relations, and pluralism.”
—Don Van Atta, Fellow, Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill

- Don Van Atta, Fellow, Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies, University of North Car

“A treasure trove of rich information and insight into borderland informal organization in Central Asia of interest to regional specialists as well as those studying transnational informal and trafficking networks more broadly. It is rare to see this amount of detail and information drawn from such volatile areas.”

—Chris Jasparro, author of Wildlife Trafficking and Poaching: Contemporary Context and Dynamics for Security Cooperation and Military Assistance

- Chris Jasparro, Ph.D, and author of Wildlife Trafficking and Poaching: Contemporary Context and Dyna