Reconceptualising Gender in Afghanistan: Cultural Production Among Contemporary Afghan Youth.

Monday, 16 July 2018: 19:30
Oral Presentation
Bilquis GHANI, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
This paper focuses on the movement among young Afghan men and women in Kabul who utilise cultural production for self-expression, cultural critique and to build networks beyond their immediate locales through which knowledges are shared. I argue that, in doing so, contemporary Afghan youth are using creative expression to shape their society and explore new constructs of gender which disrupt perceptions outside and cultural tropes inside the country. This movement reflects more broadly the role of cultural production in forming civil society which, rather than exist in a vacuum, is in global dialogue. Through music, visual art and poetry, progressive young Afghans are creating space for subaltern voices. Participation in dissident/progressive cultural production is particularly significant by young Afghan women who are operating under highly regulated patriarchal customs and through post-war political instability. This paper draws on interviews with graffiti artists, poets, musicians, and other artists, providing insights into the richness and complexity of the intimate thoughts, feelings and modes of self-identification among Afghan women, in dialogue with their male counterparts.

Interviews conducted with young artists will offer insights into the aspirations of Afghan youth for their country in terms of gender, modernity, sexuality and civic engagement, providing a novel entry point into contemporary Afghan society. Through the works and words of young Afghans, this paper unsettles many stereotypes about Afghanistan, questions the applicability of western liberal feminist theory to understand Afghan women’s experiences and seeks to understand young Afghan’s social, political and creative strategies from within.