Malalay's sisters: women's public visibility in 'post war/reconstruction' Afghanistan
This thesis investigates the modalities and conditions of Afghan women’s reappearance in the public domain following the downfall of the Taliban regime. Based on a twelvemonth ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 2007 among different groups of women (women MPs, women’s rights activists, female University Students) mostly based in Kabul, I study women’s responses to various social anxieties that have emerged as a consequence of this new visibility. I argue that while the current ‘reconstruction’ project has opened new possibilities for women and created new imaginaries pertaining to their role in society, the ideological framework (i.e liberal notions of equality and human rights etc.) on which it is grounded together with the strong military presence of foreign troops, have fuelled tensions at different levels of the Afghan society. Pressurized by their community to remain faithful to their ‘culture’, ‘religion’ and ‘tradition’ on one hand, and encouraged to access the public and become ‘visible’ by global forces on the other hand, women have been left with little choice but to adapt and find alternative ways to preserve a sense of autonomy. I describe these tactics as ‘oppositional practices of everyday life’ (De Certeau 1984), i.e complex practices of dissimulation which under the necessary appearance of compliance and conformity allow women to reconfigure social norms and create new spaces for themselves. More generally, this work engages with issues such as nationalism, Islam, gender, veiling, modernity, agency, rights and the public sphere.
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