Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Prologue: “If Only You Were Born a Boy”

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pp. 1-4

“As I grew up, my mother constantly repeated to me: ‘if only you were born a boy.’ So I eventually became one.” This is the pragmatic way in which eighteen-year-old Zahra explains how she became Zia. Zahra rents a small room in a family house located next to Kabul Polytechnic University. When, a couple of years ago, her parents divorced and remarried, none of them wanted...

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Introduction: Carnival of (Post)War

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pp. 5-28

In September 2001, a few weeks before the first bombs were dropped on Kabul, I was sitting in a small nongovernmental organization (NGO) office in Paris, watching on my computer screen news releases announcing the formation of a coalition of Western nations preparing to launch a war against a country that few people had paid much attention to before. For many Westerners,...

PART I. Phantom State Building

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Chapter 1. Queen Soraya’s Portrait

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pp. 31-61

In December 2001, a few days after the Afghan interim government was officially appointed, the Ministry of Information and Culture opened on its ground floor a hall for press conferences. On the large walls of the conference room, paintings of the different kings of Afghanistan— Timur Shah, Abdur Khaman, Habibullah, Amanullah, Nadir Shah, and Zahir Shah— were displayed in chronological order. Only in one painting did the king appear...

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Chapter 2. National Women’s Machinery: Coaching Lives in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs

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pp. 62-84

Four years after my first journey, in winter 2007, I landed in Kabul for the second time. Renovations had somewhat improved the appearance of the small airport trapped between snowy mountaintops. Customs officers in uniforms were equipped with computers, the moving walkways were running, and passengers were directed toward waiting lines. A semblance of organization...

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Chapter 3. Public and Private Faces of Gender (In)Justice

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pp. 85-108

In thirty-five years, Afghanistan has known a series of regime changes: a constitutional monarchy (under Zahir Shah), a republic (under Daud and the PDPA), an Islamic emirate (under the Taliban), and finally an Islamic republic (under President Karzai). Each of these regimes has defended contrasting— and contested— interpretations of sharia law and granted it a different position ...

PART II. Bodies of Resistance

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Chapter 4. Moral Panics, Indian Soaps, and Cosmetics: Writing the Nation on Women’s Bodies

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pp. 111-146

In March 2007, an article entitled “Zanan az democracy soy istefada mikunand” (“Women Misuse Democracy”) was published in Arman-e-Milli, a national weekly newspaper.1 The article reported that the director of the Department of Women’s Affairs of Balkh Province had complained about “the semi-naked [sic] and skimpy clothes worn by women at wedding parties and...

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Chapter 5. Strategic Decoration: Dissimulation, Performance, and Agency in an Islamic Public Space

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pp. 147-176

The bus was making its way through a dust storm. The dust was blinding us, entering our noses and throats, making us cough like asthmatic patients, reaching under the layers of our clothing. Women veiled under their chadari who were seated in the front of the bus were covering their babies under their long blue enveloping robes in an attempt to protect them from the polluted...

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Chapter 6. Poetic Jihad: Narratives of Martyrdom, Suicide, and Suffering Among Afghan Women

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pp. 177-202

In November 2007 Fatana Gailani, founder of the Afghanistan Women Council and wife of Pir Sayed Gailani, a prominent political and religious figure, or ganized a conference for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Jalalabad, her native city. Jalalabad is located in Nangahar, a province bordering Pakistan predominantly populated by Pashtuns,...

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Conclusion: The Carnival Continues

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pp. 203-210

I last visited Afghanistan in 2007. As I write, I am in London and I unexpectedly got back in touch with Khadija, the Hazara singer whose story I recount in Chapter 6. Through a common friend called Misha, who studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies and spent some time studying Hazaragi music in Afghanistan a while back, I learned that Khadija was now...

Chronology

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pp. 211-218

Notes

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pp. 219-226

Bibliography

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pp. 227-240

Index

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pp. 241-244

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 245-248

I wish to express my warm and sincere thanks to my colleagues and friends Anthony Castriota, Jane Cowan, Antonio De Lauri, Nilüfer Göle, Miia Halme-Tuomisaari, Tobias Kelly, Alessandro Monsutti, Vicki-Marie Petrick, and Sylvain Piron for their meticulous readings, constructive criticisms and good advice throughout the course of the writing of this book. Thank you for your invaluable help and constant source of inspiration....