DUPREE, LOUIS (b. Greenville, N.C., 23 August 1925; d. Durham, N.C., 21 March 1989; Plate LIV), American anthropologist who specialized in Afghan studies (Plate XLIV. During World War II Dupree, as a teenager, joined the U.S. Merchant Marine, but toward the end of the war he transferred to the 11th Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. He was stationed in the Philippines, where he fought with native guerrilla units behind Japanese lines, an experience that he later credited with having inspired his interest in ethnology. After the war Dupree studied Asian archeology and ethnology at Harvard University, receiving his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in 1949, 1953, and 1955 respectively. Although he had intended to return to the Philippines, the rejection of his research application by the Philippine government and a fortuitous invitation to join an archeological survey in Afghanistan in the summer of 1949 led to his lifelong interest in southwestern Asia.

Following the completion of his Ph.D. degree Dupree taught at the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base and Pennsylvania State University. Between 1959 and 1983 he was affiliated with the American Universities Field Staff (A.U.F.S.) as its expert on Afghanistan and Pakistan. In this capacity Dupree spent two thirds of the next nineteen years conducting research, principally in Afghanistan; every third year he spent lecturing in turn at the twelve universities that sponsored the A.U.F.S. program. Beginning in 1983 Dupree held visiting appointments at Princeton University, the U.S. Military Academy, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1985 he also became senior research associate in Islamic and Arabic development studies at Duke University, a position he held at the time of his death. During his career Dupree also served as adviser to several governments, including those of West Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, and Great Britain, and he consulted with the U.S. State Department and other government agencies, as well as with the United Nations.

Dupree’s research interests were diverse, reflecting both his own predilections and the inclusive nature of his mandate as an associate of A.U.F.S. These interests comprised but were not limited to archeology, ethnology, folklore, history, economic development, and contemporary politics. His most original and significant work was probably in archeology related to early human habitation in Afghanistan during the Middle and Upper Paleolithic. Among his notable achievements in this area was the discovery of more than 20,000 flint tools from the Upper Paleolithic at several sites near the village of Aq Kupruk south of Balḵ. From the same area and period came a small limestone pebble carved with the face of a man and reported to be the oldest piece of portable cave art found in Asia to date (L. Dupree, 1968; idem, 1980, p. 262; N. H. Dupree, p. 128).

After the Marxist coup d’etat in Afghanistan in April 1978 Dupree was briefly imprisoned before being deported from the country (N. H. Dupree, p. 129). From then on he lived principally in North Carolina but returned frequently to Peshawar, in Pakistan, to monitor the progress of the Afghan war. On several occasions he joined Afghan guerrillas on sorties into Afghanistan. Dupree died only a month after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Among his extensive publications were Afghanistan, 3rd ed., Princeton, N.J., 1980; Afghanistan in the 1970s, New York, 1974;"The Changing Character of South-Central Afghanistan Villages,” Human Organization 14/4, 1956, pp. 26-29; “Tribalism, Regionalism, and National Oligarchy. Afghanistan,” in K. H. Silvert, ed., Expectant Peoples. Nationalism and Development, New York, 1963, pp. 41-76; “Functions of Folklore in Afghan Society,” Asian Affairs, N.S. 66/1, 1979, pp. 51-61; and “Tribal Warfare in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A Reflection on the Segmentary Lineage System,” in A. S. Ahmed and D. M. Hart, eds., Islam in Tribal Society, London, 1984, pp. 266-86. 


“Louis Dupree,” The New York Times, 23 March 1989, p. D22.

L. Dupree, “The Oldest Sculptured Head?” Natural History 77/5, 1968, pp. 26-27.

Idem, Afghanistan, 3rd ed., Princeton, N.J., 1980.

Curriculum Vitae1925-1989, Peshawar, 1992.

N. H. Dupree, “Louis Dupree—American Lover of Afghanistan,” Central Asia (Peshawar), 33, winter 1993, pp. 119-30.

[Plate numbers in this entry have been corrected; the numbers given in the print edition's version of the entry are in error.]

(David B. Edwards)

Originally Published: December 15, 1996

Last Updated: February 27, 2013

This article is available in print.
Vol. VII, Fasc. 6, pp. 588-589

Cite this entry:

David B. Edwards, “DUPREE, LOUIS,” Encyclopædia Iranica, VII/6, pp. 588-589, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/dupree-louis (accessed on 30 December 2012).