Noah is a political anthropologist focusing on political structures and violence in the Middle East and South Asia and the Director of the Consortium for Innovative Environments in Learning.
At Bennington College he teaches courses on the overlap of politics, power and culture. He has conducted over 5 years of field research in Afghanistan, and has also conducted field research in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Georgia, Turkey and India. His most recent work focus on international contractors from Nepal, the Republic of Georgia and India, who fought during the war in Afghanistan. He tells their stories and looks at what this means for the future of war and the American Empire in his book Under Contract: The Invisible Workers of America’s Global War.
Follow him on twitter: @NCoburnNoah.
In 2006-2008 Noah spent 18 months with a group of potters in the town of Istalif, some 30 miles north of Kabul. His book, Bazaar Politics: Power and Pottery in an Afghan Market Town, 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.
More recently, Noah has conducted extensive research on elections and dispute resolution in several different provinces across Afghanistan. His book with Anna Larson Derailing Democracy in Afghanistan: Elections in an Unstable Political Landscape, looks at how elections actually undermined democratic values in the country after the initial US invasion. Anna and Noah tracked communities in a dozen different districts across Afghanistan during the 2009, 2010 and 2014 elections. Their reports and commentary from monitoring the 2014 elections for Chatham House are available on their blog ‘Afghan Elections 2014.’
Noah has published numerous articles and reports for a variety of think tanks in Washington and Kabul, including the United States Institute of Peace, the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit, Chatham House and the Agha Khan Trust for Culture. For a links to some of these publications, see the Publications page.
Noah received his doctorate in anthropology from Boston University in 2010; MA in regional studies, Columbia University; BA, Williams College. He has taught at the American University of Afghanistan, Boston University, the University of Michigan and Skidmore College, and is currently on the faculty at Bennington College.