Afghan women in Germany

Diana Sherzada

As the anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod raised up her doubts about the images of Afghan women that are offered in the West she felt the urge to question: “Do muslim women need saving?” (2003; 2013). In drawing attention on the media figurations campaigning human/womens rights discourse and the prevailing politics of violence she marked out that women in Afghanistan have long been portrayed as passive victims awaiting liberation from the West.

While many actors still foster this monodirectional view on gender, agency and ethnicity they fail to explain the fluidities of Afghan women’s identities. In drawing them out alongside iconographic symbols of oppression they dismiss the many challenges Afghans have to face traversing cultural and biographical processes, gender orders and social relations.

One year past 9/11 the Afghan Lawanga told me that she feels unseen by the German majority society and simultaneously irritated amongst the afghan community because of shifting gender and family relations since living abroad and residing in Germany. Her words marked out her very special reaching out for new ways of looking at (or even for) gender identity as she explained: “In Germany one has to be male and female!”

My work’s approach is to cast light on gender articulations at the intersections of individual subjectivities of (fe-)male body experience, place-making and gender identity politics. While my focus is on the everyday practices and ongoing gender discourses in Germany I’d like to study gender processes as closely interwoven within the ongoing transformations of family and gender structures and embedded within the scale of the transnational multilayered regiments of border crossing(s). Within that scope I put global power hierarchies, women’s rights discourse and the role of (European) feminism into dialogue to contribute to a shift in the re-reading of feminist and development agenda(s).