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Robert Crews

Robert Crews

Professor of History
Ph.D., Princeton University
M.A., Columbia University
B. A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Robert D. Crews is an historian whose research and teaching interests focus on Afghanistan, Central and South Asia, Russia, Islam, and Global History.  A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he received an MA in History from Columbia University and a PhD degree in History from Princeton University.

He is the author of Afghan Modern: The History of a Global Nation (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2015) and  For Prophet and Tsar: Islam and Empire in Russia and Central Asia (Harvard University Press, 2006) - in Russian translation as За пророка и царя: ислам и империя в России и Центральной Азии (Москва: Новое литературное обозрение, 2020) and co-editor of Under the Drones: Modern Lives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands (Harvard University Press, 2012) and The Taliban and the Crisis of Afghanistan (Harvard University Press, 2008). His work has also appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and The New York Times

He has served as Director of the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies and of the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of the journal Afghanistan (The American Institute of Afghanistan Studies/Edinburgh University Press). 

A 2009 Carnegie Scholar, Crews received the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching for First Years of Teaching, 2006-2007, the El Centro Chicano Faculty Appreciation Award in 2011, and the Stanford College Prep Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring Award, Summer 2012.

His course offerings in 2020-2021 include “The Islamic Republics: Politics and Society in Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan" (Winter), “The Global Drug Wars" (Spring), "Global History: Modern Times" (Spring), and "Global Islam" (Summer).

Work in Progress

“‘Sellers of the Homeland’: Narratives of Treason and Fidelity in Afghanistan” (article)

"Gender, Religious Authority, and Media in Afghanistan" (article)

“Debating the Afghan Secular: The Politics of Dissent, Diaspora, and Religious Pluralism” (article)

Afghanistan: A Very Short Introduction (book manuscript co-authored with Wazhmah Osman, under contract with Oxford University Press).

The Politics of Islam in a Global Age (book manuscript – a global history of the politics of Muslim minority communities, focusing on Mexico, Ghana, India, Russia, and Northern Ireland)

The Afghan Shia: A Revolutionary Minority (book manuscript)

PhD Advisees

Anubha Anushree, “The Counterfeit Empire: Corruption and Forgery in Colonial South Asia”

Mejgan Massoumi, “The Sounds of Kabul: Radio, Ahmad Zahir and the Politics of Popular Culture in Afghanistan, 1960-79”

Sabauon Nasseri, “The Red Flower of Life: The Afghan Left and the Cold War”


Selected Publications & Projects

Robert Crews

Rugged, remote, riven by tribal rivalries and religious violence, Afghanistan seems to many a country frozen in time and forsaken by the world....
Robert Crews
Shahzad Bashir
In the West, media coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan is framed by military and political concerns, resulting in a simplistic picture of ageless...
Robert Crews
Amin Tarzi
The Taliban remain one of the most elusive forces in modern history. A ragtag collection of clerics and madrasa students, this obscure movement...


Selected Journals & Book Chapters

Robert Crews
After 50 plus years, the United States has caused more harm than good in Afghanistan. By accepting responsibility for the refugee crisis, it can...
Robert Crews
“The Russian Worlds of Islam,” Islam and the European Empires, ed., David Motadel (Oxford University Press, 2014).

More Information

“Mourning Imam Husayn in Karbala and Kabul: The Political Meanings of ʿAshura in Afghanistan,” Afghanistan 3, no. 2 (2020): 202-236. 

“L’avion et l’Afghanistan moderne: une construction historique vue du ciel,” Moyen Orient no. 45, January-March 2020.

"Risking Democracy in Afghanistan: Voting, Violence, and the Struggle for Parliament,” Journal of International Affairs, October 19, 2018.

“Fear and Loathing in the Russian Empire,” in Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared History?, ed., James Renton and Ben Gidley (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 79-98.

“A Patriotic Islam? Russia’s Muslims under Putin,” World Politics Review, March 8, 2016.

“Putin’s Khanate:  How Moscow is Trying to Integrate Crimean Muslims,” Foreign Affairs, April 7, 2014.

“Trafficking in Evil? The Global Arms Trade and the Politics of Disorder,” Global Islam in the Age of Steam and Print, 1850-1930, eds., James Gelvin and Nile Green (University of California Press, 2014).

“The Taliban and Nationalist Militancy in Afghanistan,” Contextualizing Jihadi Thought, eds., Jeevan Deol and Zaheer Kazmi (London:  Hurst and Co./NY:  Columbia University Press,  2012).

“Muslim Networks, Imperial Power, and the Local Politics of Qajar Iran,” in Asiatic Russia: Imperial Power in Regional and International Contexts, ed., Uyama Tomohiko (NY:  Routledge, 2012).

“Russia Unbound:  Historical Frameworks and the Challenge of Globalism,” Ab Imperio no. 1 (2010):  53-63.

“Civilization in the City:  Architecture, Urbanism, and the Colonization of Tashkent,” Architectures of Identity in Russia, 1500-2000, ed., James Cracraft and Daniel Rowland (Ithaca, NY:  Cornell University Press, 2003), 117-132.

 “Empire and the Confessional State: Islam and Religious Politics in Nineteenth-Century Russia,” American Historical Review vol. 108, no. 1 (February 2003): 50-83.