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Afghanistan Remembers

Afghanistan Remembers: Gendered Narrations of Violence and Culinary Practices

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Afghanistan Remembers
    Book Description:

    Although extensive literature exists on the violence of war, little attention has been given to the ways in which this violence becomes entrenched and normalized in the inner recesses of everyday life. InAfghanistan Remembers,Parin Dossa examines Afghan women's recall of violence through memories and food practices in their homeland and its diaspora. Her work reveals how the suffering and trauma of violence has been rendered socially invisible following decades of life in a war-zone.

    Dossa argues that it is necessary to acknowledge the impact of violence on the familial lives of Afghan women along with their attempts at recovery under difficult circumstances. Informed by Dossa's own story of family migration and loss,Afghanistan Remembersis a poignant ethnographic account of the trauma of war. She calls on the reader to recognize and bear witness to the impact of deeper forms of violence.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6760-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. In Memoriam
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-23)

    For the past two decades, I have been exploring the relationship between violence and social memory and asking what kind of contribution anthropologists can make in this domain. My interest in this subject has personal roots. Along with my family, I was uprooted from my home country of Uganda in 1972. As part of the South Asian exodus, we settled largely in the West: Canada, the United States, and Britain. South Asians were desirable refugees. Having come from a country colonized by Britain (1890–1962), we had been educated under the British system and exposed to a Western way of...

  6. 1 Epistemology and Methodology
    (pp. 24-42)

    Since 2006, I have conducted field research among Afghan refugees in Burnaby, Canada, and also briefly in Quetta (August to September 2007), the largest city and the capital of the province of Baluchistan, Pakistan. Focusing on gendered experiences of displacement and resettlement, I explored the effects of a double moment: trauma/social suffering in the home country and retraumatization in the diaspora accompanied by efforts towards recovery. It was at this juncture that I recognized the importance of memory work, as the women I conversed with not only recalled past events but reconfigured them in the present to make sense of...

  7. 2 Testimonial Narratives
    (pp. 43-61)

    For people who are subjected to prolonged violence, as is the case with those in Afghanistan, there is a collective narrative that Beverley (1992) refers to as “testimonio.” Testimonio is characterized by an urgency to communicate an issue and a need to articulate “a problematic collective social situation in which the narrator lives. The situation of the narrator in testimonio is one that must be representative of a social class or group” (95; cf. Dossa 2004, 13–14). Testimonio is integral to active remembering where the past and the present are fused: “We do not eat fruit because our garden...

  8. 3 Bearing Witness
    (pp. 62-88)

    In this chapter, I present a reading of Meena’s testimonial account complemented with insights from other Afghan women, all of whom reside in a low-income housing area which I refer to as Valley View, Burnaby. Engaged in the act of self-witnessing, the narrators created a space for others to witness with them a powerful mode to turn personal grief into social accountability.¹

    Research is a form of witness, and hence, it requires attentiveness on the part of the listener-reader, argues Ross (2003). This endeavour poses a dilemma for anthropologists given our close encounters with the respondents. We cannot assume that...

  9. 4 The Fire of the Hearth Will Not Be Extinguished
    (pp. 89-108)

    This chapter explores food and its interface with the memory work of women (zanaan) in Afghanistan. As a social phenomenon embedded in everyday life, food (ghezaa) reveals the impact of violence in the inner recesses of life. To illustrate this point, I focus on three ethnographic sites: the hearth, the vendor’s cart, and the vegetable patch. Women’s work at the hearth reveals their survival strategy of cooking with minimal ingredients in the absence of the staple diet of meat (gosht). Going beyond the materiality of food, the women’s strategies include fostering social ties and cultural nurturance. In the course of...

  10. 5 Foodscapes
    (pp. 109-133)

    In chapter 4, I explored three ethnographic sites (the hearth, the vendor’s cart, and the vegetable patch) to illustrate the relationship between memory work and food. These mediums, I argued, reveal the workings of violence in the inner recesses of life as well as survival strategies within spaces of devastation. In this chapter, I continue to explore this theme to highlight an additional point: the intricate ways in which Afghanistan (there) and Canada (here) are interconnected. By way of illustration, I focus on three sites from my ethnographic research in Valley View (Burnaby): the street, the home, and the food...

  11. Conclusion: Towards an Engaged Anthropology
    (pp. 134-142)

    The women (zanaan) have spoken through the pages of this book using the construct of memory where the past (gozashta) is rendered present (haal), generating a dialogical narrative.¹ When people remember, they do so for an imagined audience; their recall of events is meant to create for a listener a feeling of being there. Exemplifying family and kinship,² the women in my study remembered knowing full well that their suffering has not been acknowledged by the world, a point of viewed confirmed by Daulatzai (2006, 306) and Waterson: “The failure of the rest of the world to intervene leaves some...

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 143-144)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 145-154)
  14. References
    (pp. 155-166)
  15. Index
    (pp. 167-178)