The Digital Politics of Pain: Exploring Female Voices in Afghanistan

The Digital Politics of Pain: Exploring Female Voices in Afghanistan

Mary Louisa Cappelli (Globalmother.org, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2391-8.ch009
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Abstract

After 9/11, the upsurge of the Internet and intensification of mass media has provided Afghans with access to a global information highway of new perspectives, narratives, ideas, and images. Global connectivity has likewise brought with it cultural challenges over meaning. Within these digital spaces, the politics of ideological warfare ensue for the battle of representation and signification, which are inevitably interlinked to questions of power and powerlessness. Within this digital space of ideological contestation, I explore the power of the Afghan Women's Writing Project and its ability to empower women to bear witness and share their geographies of pain. Moreover, I demonstrate how AWWP operates as a social media democratizing campaign meticulously employing Western feminist rhetoric to shape Afghan cultural and social systems and subvert opposing Islamic forces that attempt to undermine protections against women and principles of free market democracy.
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Introduction

In her poem “Letter to an Orphan,” Sharifa (2015) writes, “Dear Orphan, / I know you lost your father and mother / To war, to suicide attacks / And bomb blasts. / I know you wish / it had been you who died / Instead of them” (AWWP, Workshop 108). Sharifa, like many other women of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project shares her history of suffering and loss while at the same time gathering strength and courage with other women in her community and with a larger collective of global women across international borders. In this article, I explore the power of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project and its ability to empower women to bear witness and share their geographies of pain. Within this digital space of ideological contestation, female identities are described, inscribed, and re-inscribed in a dialectical pattern of power, struggle, and resistance. In “reading otherwise,” I examine questions of power and patterns of resistance and female agency in a digital space that has provided a global media platform for Afghan women to re-insert their voices into history. As a mentor for the project for three months, I argue while this digital community offers a space to “empower Afghan women to tell their own stories and truths,” it is important to consider how the painful memories and “truths” are constructed, politicized, and used as ideological weapons of war against entrenched patriarchal systems. This includes an examination of the rhetoric of spreading democracy across geopolitical borders and liberating “women of cover” with Western ideals of civilization and human rights. In so doing, I interrogate AWWP’s mission and its similarities to First Lady Laura Bush’s rationalization for military invasion in which she said, “The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women” (Oliver, 2007, p. 56). In examining the discursive dialectic of the mentor prompts and writer responses, I demonstrate that AWWP operates as a social media democratizing campaign that spreads its message of socio-cultural and political values across geographical borders. In effect, the cultural production is intrinsically linked to international struggles around gender rights and free market justice. By meticulously employing Western feminist rhetoric to shape Afghan cultural and social systems, AWWP subverts opposing Islamic forces that attempt to undermine protections against women and principles of free market democracy.

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