Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Identity and Equity
Secondary Theme: Immigration/Migration/Citizenship
Since the fall of the Taliban and the ensuing US-led intervention broad political upheavals and processes of social change have impacted the people of Afghanistan. This panel includes four key cases to illustrate the changing nature of identity and social relations brought about in the post-Taliban era.
An ambitious process of political reform has been broached in Afghanistan since 2001. Modelled as a constitutional democracy and featuring an ethnic power sharing arrangement, political reconstruction in Afghanistan has politicized ethnicity. It has also deepened the salience of ethnic identity - as a key mode to make claims upon the state - and has correspondingly agitated interethnic tensions.
The introduction of ideas of democracy and Human Rights have also stimulated broad processes of social change. Notions of masculinity and femininity in Afghanistan are being reformed through the interaction of Afghan and Western conceptualizations of gender. Furthermore, the manner in which the contemporary Afghan state responds to sexual transgressions has impacted gendered and sexual subjectivities in the country.
Indeed, the very manner in which identities are deployed in relation to the state and emerging governance structures is important. The assertion of identity - particularly when mediated by informal organizations - can serve the purpose of resisting state intrusion in peripheral areas of Afghanistan. Informal organizations not only provide key sites for identity-assertion, but also feature as social spaces in which the reproduction or reformation of Afghan identities takes place.
In addition, the "return" migration of millions of Afghans from Iran, Pakistan and beyond have had a profound effect on Afghan society. This includes shifts in awareness, impacts upon religiosity and changing class relations. Simultaneously, new identity categories linked to those who have returned and those who stayed behind in Afghanistan have emerged. And, it is not just Afghan "returnees" that are central to this analysis. The massive displacement of Afghan refugees heading to Europe and elsewhere has resulted in emergent forms of Afghan subjectivity, collective identity and related social relations. Indeed, it could be argued that the very mobility of Afghans can now be seen as a form of moral protest and political action.
Afghan identities, both inside and outside of Afghanistan, are in a heightened state of flux. State, society and subjectivities are changing. While in some areas we see adaptation, in others we witness contestation and resistance to change. The papers in this panel talk to this emergent social landscape. And, they do so to contribute to a growing understanding of the dynamics of identarian change in the Afghan context; be this driven by the Afghan state, taking place within Afghan society or impacting Afghan subjectivities - at home or abroad.