The Making of Modern Afghanistan

Reconstruction, Transnational Governance and Gender Politics in the New Islamic Republic

in Volume 7 (2012): Issue 1 (Mar 2012): An Overview of the Contemporary Ethnography of Afghanistan. Guest Editor: Zuzanna Olszewska

This article seeks to characterise the nature of the post-Taliban 'reconstruction' project in Afghanistan through an analysis of observations and interviews collected in the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MoWA) in 2007. Based on a case study of a 'gender empowerment' training programme administered by the MoWA and funded by an international aid agency, I underline some intricacies in the relationships that are built in development encounters. I argue that the current efforts to include gender issues in politics are part of a broader cultural project aimed at setting up the conditions of possibility for the creation of a modern Afghan state. I show how reconstruction does not simply consist in the formation of a bureaucratic apparatus based on Western models of liberal democracies but primarily involves cultural and symbolic production.