Learning in a Militarized Context: Exploring Afghan Women’s Experiences of Higher Education in ‘Post-Conflict’ Afghanistan


Akseer, Spogmai. “Learning in a Militarized Context: Exploring Afghan Women’s Experiences of Higher Education in ‘Post-Conflict’ Afghanistan.” PhD diss., University of Toronto, 2015.

Author: Spogmai Akseer


This study examines the repercussions of the war on terror and subsequent occupation of Afghanistan, on the daily (gendered) life experiences of Afghan women. I argue that such wars are markers of the shifts in global capitalist accumulation processes, from exporting ‘goods’ to the Global South, to now exporting capitalism. Specifically, the war on terror is the latest manifestation of monopoly finance capitalism, which leverages wars and insecurity in the Global South as lucrative sites for accumulating profits and (re)investments. Democratic ideals provide a ‘moral’ justification for mass militarism, human rights violations, torture and erosion of existing social and economic inequalities. Notions of freedom, equality or classlessness, which are important objectives of formal democracy, as well, colonialist and racist ideologies of Others have become effective mechanisms forcapitalism to sustain and reproduce capitalist class relations. Education is an important site for socializing citizens toward accepting and participating as human capital in monopoly finance capitalism. Through the World Bank, higher education reforms in Afghanistan are endorsing neoliberal policies, even as these policies continue to contradict and exacerbate existing inequalities. Specifically, female education has become a key strategy in continued militarization and occupation in the country.
In this study, I examine the contradictory ways in which female university students navigate through an increasingly militarized, violent and patriarchal terrain. Guided by a transnational feminist approach and a dialectical historical materialist framework, 19 female university students from 5 public and private universities were interviewed in Afghanistan. Findings suggest that the university is a contradictory site where participants mobilize new and old strategies for addressing gendered constraints in their lives, while simultaneously creating new ones. The implications of these findings suggest a need for extensive institutional and ideological support for women’s learning, and also improving home-school connections. The participants’ desire to learn and their concerns over increasing violence and insecurity, reveal the militarized nature of their learning, as well, the possibility for critical and transformative learning against imperialism, patriarchy and class relations.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Education, Gender, Women, Men, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Livelihoods, Militarized Livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Afghanistan

Year: 2015

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