In this paper we examine how Afghan women resist, strategize and negotiate family and societal constraints to take advantage of the expanding education and employment opportunities in the post-Taliban era. We focus on how these women exercise agency and what resources they mobilize to maximize their opportunities in the face of potential constraints. We argue that to understand women’s agency and changing gendered power relations in the family, it is crucial to examine every day individual behaviors that deviate from prescribed dominant gender behavior and infuse altered meanings to dominant gendering discourses. Our research highlights that gendered power is partial, interrupted by situated emotions and relationships. Afghan women employ a range of resistance methods to overcome constraints placed in their way, and we discuss them through three thematic frameworks of resistance in acts of submission, sacrifice and situated agreement, resistance in acts of open defiance, and resistance in acts of negotiation. The analyses is based on in-depth interviews with 64 women from 40 households in Kabul, and illustrate the significance of the family as a site in which gendered power and subordination are disrupted, fragmented, negotiated, and interdependent, challenging assumptions of the family as a site of monolithic oppressive power against women.

Author Biography

Sara N. Amin is Lecturer and Discipline Coordinator of Sociology at The University of the South Pacific. Her research areas focus on the intersection of identity, power and resistance in the context of social change. She is currently working on research related to changing gender relations in the family in South Asia, as well as sites of gendered insecurity in the Pacific. Previously her research has examined contestations of faith and citizenship among Muslim communities in North America and impact of international labour migration from South Asia to the MENA region on shifting gender, national and religious identities.

Nazifa Alizada studies Master’s in Global Studies at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Politics, Philosophy and Economics with double minors in Asian Studies and Gender Studies from Asian University for Women, Bangladesh. Nazifa has earlier worked at the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research and as a Research Assistant for the Family Empowerment Study at AUW.