Crafting Masculine Selves: Culture, War, and Psychodynamics in Afghanistan

ISBN : 9780190073558

Andrea Chiovenda
280 Pages
156 x 156 mm
Pub date
Jan 2020
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Against the backdrop of four decades of continuous conflict in Afghanistan, the Pashtun male protagonists of this book carry out their daily effort to internally negotiate, adjust (if at all), and respond to the very strict cultural norms and rules of masculinity that their androcentric social environment enjoins on them. Yet, in a widespread context of war, displacement, relocation, and social violence, cultural expectations and stringent tenets on how to comport oneself as a "real man" have a profound impact on the psychological equilibrium and emotional dynamics of these individuals. This book is a close investigation into these private and at times contradictory aspects of subjectivity. Stemming from five years of research in a southeastern province of Afghanistan, it presents a long-term, psychodynamic engagement with a select group of male Pashtun individuals, which results in a multilayered dive not only into their inner lives, but also into the cultural and social environment in which they live and develop. Behind the screen of what often seems like outward conformity, Andrea Chiovenda is able to point to areas of strong inner conflict, ambivalence, and rebellion, which in turn will serve as the seeds for cultural and social change. These dynamics play out in a setting in which what was considered legitimate and justifiable violence on the battlefield has now spilled over into everyday life, even among non-combatants.


Chapter 1: Historical and Ethnographic Background
Chapter 2: Rohullah - Shifting Subjectivities, and the Crafting of a Private Masculinity
Chapter 3: Umar - The Making, and Un-making, of a Religious Militant
Chapter 4: Baryalay - Between Cultural and Personal Representational Worlds
Chapter 5: Rahmat - The Dilemmas of a Perfect Pashtun
Chapter 6: Between What Was and What Is: Four Tales of Development and Growth

About the author: 

Andrea Chiovenda is a post-doctoral research associate in the department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and an affiliated faculty member at Emerson College, Boston. He received his PhD in anthropology from Boston University, and his doctoral fieldwork was carried out in Afghanistan, where he investigated the psychological impact of strict cultural idioms and norms of masculinity among Afghan Pashtun men. His new, ongoing ethnographic project is taking place in Greece, where he is studying the psychological consequences of displacement and migration among Afghan refugees.

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