Feminist Nation-Building in Afghanistan: An Examination of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)

Citation:

Fluri, Jennifer L. 2011. “Feminist Nation-Building in Afghanistan: An Examination of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA).” In The Women, Gender & Development Reader, edited by Nalini Visvanathan, Lynn Duggan, Nan Wiegersma, and Laurie Nisonoff, 425-31. London: Zed Books.

Author: Jennifer L. Fluri

Abstract:

Women-led political organizations that employ feminist and nationalist ideologies and operate as separate from, rather than associated with, male-dominated or patriarchal nationalist groups are both significant and under-explored areas of gender, feminist, and nationalism studies. This article investigates the feminist and nationalist vision of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). RAWA exemplifies an effective political movement that intersects feminist and nationalist politics, where women are active, rather than symbolic, participants within the organization, and help to shape an ideological construction of the Afghan nation. RAWA subsequently links its struggle for women's rights (through feminism) with its nationalist goals for democracy and secularism. This article also analyses RAWA's use of conservative nationalist methods to reproduce the future of the organization and to develop ‘citizens’ for its idealized nation, while countering existing patriarchal social and familial structures through a re-configuration of women's roles in the family, community, and nation. This inquiry is based on geographic and feminist examinations of RAWA's organizational structure, literature, and political goals obtained through content analyses of RAWA's political literature and through interviews with RAWA members and supporters living as refugees in Pakistan in the summer of 2003 and winter of 2004/05. RAWA is an instructive example of counter-patriarchal and nationalist feminist politics that questions patriarchal definitions of the nation and its citizenry by reconfiguring gender norms and redefining gender relations in the family as a mirror of the nation.

Keywords: feminist nationalism, resistance, Afghanistan, counter-patriarchy

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Nationalism, Political Participation, Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Afghanistan

Year: 2011

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