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 b__zi, 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 b_zi 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 b_zi 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.