‘Art is my language’: Afghan cultural production challenging Islamophobic stereotypes

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Sociology, 2019
Issue Date:
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© The Author(s) 2019. Afghans and Afghanistan have, since September 11, risen to prominence in Western popular imagination as a land of tradition, tribalism and violence. Afghan women are assumed to be silent, submissive, and terrorised by Afghan men, who are seen as violent patriarchs driven by an uncompromising mediaeval religion. These Islamophobic tropes also inform perceptions of Afghans seeking asylum. In transit, identities are further reduced; asylum seekers lose even a national identity and become a Muslim threat – criminals, terrorists or invaders. These narrative frames permeate political discourse, media, and reports of non-governmental organisations (seeking donor funds to ‘save’ Afghan women). Drawing on fieldwork in Afghanistan and Indonesia, this article looks at how Afghans in Kabul and Indonesia are using art and other forms of cultural production to challenge over-simplified hegemonic narratives in the West, to open spaces for dialogue and expression within their own communities, and to offer a more nuanced account of their own identities.
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