Anthropology, Feminism, and Literature: Blurring Boundaries

By Khan, Anoosh | The Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, July 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Anthropology, Feminism, and Literature: Blurring Boundaries


Khan, Anoosh, The Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences


Abstract

This paper illustrates the vital relationship and the seamless bond among anthropology, feminism, and literature. The paper demonstrates that with changing times Pakhtun women have used various means, like folk songs, published literary texts, and/or visual representations to voice the gender disparity prevalent in their socio-cultural set up. The paper further discusses that the use of various genres as tools of expression have stimulated cultural ideological shifts and has given Pakhtun women agency in the past and the present.

Keywords: Pakhtun women, ideology, agency, Pashto poems and folk songs

Introduction

Anthropology and Literature are two of the disciplines which creatively address socio-cultural and political issues. Researchers and scholars in both disciplines engage in looking at many intersectional and cross-cutting issues from their particular perspectives. Feminism, a discipline in itself too, is perhaps one of the main central threads running through both these areas. This paper illustrates the vital relation among the three, and looks at the seamless bond, which usually blurs the definitive disciplinary divide among them. I focus on whether literary texts can be used as secondary source to support primary (feminist) anthropological data.

What are the different literary conventions, genres, and themes through which literary expressions support anthropological problems? And can literature provide (female) agency and account for ideological shifts?

Methodology

In this paper I demonstrate how some Pakhtun women, in Peshawar, Pakistan use literary genres to voice their concerns and thus express their agency as social actors. Pakhtuns are the ethnic group that primarily lives in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in the northwest and Baluchistan in the west of Pakistan and most parts of Afghanistan. Pakhtuns are generally considered gender biased, gender segregated, and patriarchally structured people. In this paper, I argue that according to non-Pakhtun standards, Pakhtun women may have restricted agency or perhaps no agency; however, within the patriarchal structures, without challenging the cultural set up per se, Pakhtun women do have different ways to express and practice agency. One of the ways, through which they practice agency, is by voicing their emotions and concerns through folk songs and other literary genres. In this paper I use some Pashto1 poems and folk songs to prove that literature, as a tool, can strategically support primary (feminist) anthropological data to voice and advocate social, cultural, and gender issues.

My primary data includes formal interviews of some Pashto scholars, poets, and writers. These interviews were intermittently conducted in 2007 and 2009. My secondary data, which I contest will support my primary data, includes translated Pashto poems, some couplets from Pashto folk songs, and the feminist rendition of the folk song " Bibi Shireenay" which was aired on various Pakistani TV channels but was blocked from mainstream media after a couple of telecasts by the then provincial government, Muthaida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).2

In order to support my argument I use some anthropological theoretical frameworks like the role of ideology (Althusser, 1971); processes of recognition (Pêcheux, 1982); theory of structuration (Giddens, 1979); and habitus (Bourdieu, 1977). I employ these frameworks to explicate the ideological underpinnings of the Pakhtun culture and its impact on women's agency as social subjects. In addition, I also use some feminist theoretical frameworks, like the importance of positionality (Abu-Lughod 2008; Naples 2003) and the insider/outsider status (Collins 1991; Naples 2003). With the help of feminist paradigms I show how female literary scholars and poets effect, validate, and give voice to gender issues in a patriarchal society.

In order to maintain participants' confidentiality I use pseudonyms except for Salma Shaheen who is a well known Pashto scholar and poet. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Anthropology, Feminism, and Literature: Blurring Boundaries
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.