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Ahsan, Sonia

Grant Type: 
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Columbia U.
Status: 
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
November 15, 2010
Project Title: 
Ahsan, Sonia, Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Recognizing Honor: Sexual Violence and the Honour Effect in Afghanistan,' supervised by Dr. Brinkley Morris Messick

SONIA AHSAN, then a student at Columbia University, New York, New York, received funding in November 2010 to aid research on 'Recognizing Honor: Sexual Violence and the Honor Effect in Afghanistan,' supervised by Dr. Brinkley M. Messick. This project proposes an ethnographic approach to understanding honor-killings. Tracing the complex juridical, social, material, and historical permutations of the categories of honor and honor-killings in Afghanistan, the archival and ethnographic research unsettles these categories by demonstrating that honor is not a singular cause of action that motivates the killings but rather a retroactive effect that manifests itself through ex post facto discourses and practices. This is achieved by: 1) documenting the prominent discourses and practices that enable honor to emerge as the foremost category of analysis to explain certain violent events; 2) analyzing the vocabulary defining sexual transgressions (and by extension sexual norms) and how it has been systematically rationalized, institutionalized, and circulated through social processes; and 3) studying the manifestation of dishonorable statuses (with or without a killing), and how they are inhabited and negotiated in relation to honorable states. Bringing together the social constructs of sexual vocabulary, through an ethnography of honor-killings, this project seeks to illuminate the sexual life-worlds that inhabit present day Afghanistan.