Ali Ali Abdi

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Yale U.

Grant number

Gr. 9638

Approve Date

April 16, 2018

Project Title

Abdi, Ali, Yale U., New Haven, CT - To aid research on 'Dancing Bachas, Shakhs, and Gay Men: Culture and Politics of Same-Sex Desire in Afghanistan,' supervised by Dr. Jafari Allen

MOHAMMAD ALI ABDI, then a graduate student at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, was awarded funding in April 2018 to aid research on “Dancing Bachas, Shakhs, and Gay Men: Culture and Politics of Same-Sex Desire in Afghanistan,” supervised by Dr. Jafari Allen. How do Afghan men who engage in dancing and same-sex relationships construct identities, negotiate their sexual and gender practices, build communities, and live their lives in Afghanistan? And how are their subjectivities formed at the juncture of state-building and globalization processes? This study is attentive to the long history of male-homoeroticism in the Persianate and Islamic world, in particular to the institution of bacha bāzi, exploring how the institution has evolved over the past decades and what new possibilities it entails in Kabul where the study was based. The anxieties involved in state-building processes under a western gaze have led to the introduction of a range of disciplinary practices directed at the institution. The spectre of bacha bāzi however continues to haunt the culture of same-sex desire in Kabul, profoundly informing the social implications, boundaries, and terms of same-sex relationships. Male dancers, too, often benefit from the cultural repertoire of bacha bāzi and also from the wider recognition of the third gender/hijra in South Asia. Dancing, both as a profession and an artistic expression, is therefore a culturally legible practice for effeminate male dancers of Kabul, providing them a space where they can be playfully feminine.