The Price of Protection. Gender, Violence and Power in Afghanistan
This thesis examines contestations over gender violence as points of entry into an analysis of gender, politics and sovereign power in contemporary Afghanistan. It explores the evolving parameters of what ‘counts’ as violence against women in Afghanistan, articulated in legal frameworks and practices, in public and media debates and in the interventions of political leaders, diplomats and aid workers. The thesis asks whether violence against women has become a governance issue in Afghanistan and what this means for the position of women and for broader relations of power. These questions are investigated through an examination of the origins and fate of a new law on violence against women, a series of controversies over women’s shelters, attempts to bestow recognition on informal justice processes and the trajectories of individual episodes of violence as they travelled through different and sometimes competing legal forums. I show how the outcome of these struggles have the potential to redraw boundaries between government and family domains, and to subordinate women to kinship power, or alternatively, constitute them as independent legal persons. The thesis further analyses negotiations over and interventions into violence against women as revealing of shifting domains and claims of sovereignty, of projects of power and of political technologies. The processes detailed in the thesis illuminate a landscape of plural and competing legal regimes that in specific times and places presided over individual episodes of gender violence The thesis also shows that far from operating as a singular bloc, Western forays in Afghanistan produced multiple and contradictory effects on women’s security and protection.
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