This article traces how the Afghan cultural, media, and arts sectors have gone through cycles of boom and bust in tandem with the country’s tumultuous history in recent decades, starting with the prewar golden era in the 1960s and 1970s, then focusing on the post-9/11 internationally funded media expansion, and finally on the Taliban’s return to power. The current exodus of human talent, due to forced migration, dispossession, and displacement, amounts to a profound cultural loss. But the country has already been transformed by the influence of a period of media freedoms and an emergent public sphere that created space for democratic debate and cosmopolitan cultural expression.

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