The Skin of the Burka: Recent Life Narratives from Afghanistan

Gillian Whitlock

in Soft Weapons

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2006 | ISBN: 9780226895253
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226895277 | DOI:
The Skin of the Burka: Recent Life Narratives from Afghanistan

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This chapter investigates how autoethnographies circulate in the West and empower feminist activism in Afghanistan at the same time as they appeal to Western fantasies about one of the most intractable signs of cultural difference: the veil. My Forbidden Face is one of the most popular life narratives from Afghanistan. Afghan feminist activists strategically use the burka. The specter of the refugee haunts those Afghan women who pass into the West as celebrities and champions of freedom. The covers of Afghan women's autoethnographies play on similarity and difference and on the threshold of what can be recognized as human, with the burka securely placed as a metonymic sign of the absolute Other, obscuring the promise of a familiar woman's body beneath. In the war of words and significations attached to the war on terror, the faces of Afghan women mark a threshold in the struggle over how subjects become human.

Keywords: women's autoethnographies; burka; feminist activism; Afghanistan; Afghan feminist activists; My Forbidden Face; Afghan women

Chapter.  9378 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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