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Canadian women and the (re)production of women in Afghanistan Butler, Melanie

Abstract

Canadian women have been at the forefront of the international movement for women’s rights in Afghanistan since the rise of the Taliban in the late 1990s. Focusing on the prominent group Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan), this paper looks at the role its advocacy assumes in the context of the “War on Terror”. In Canada as in the United States, government agencies have justified the military invasion of Afghanistan by revitalizing the oppressed Muslim woman as a medium through which narratives of East versus West are performed. While CW4WAfghan attempt to challenge dominant narratives of Afghan women, they ultimately reinforce and naturalize the Orientalist logic on which the War on Terror operates, even helping to disseminate it through the Canadian school system. Drawing on post-colonial feminist theory, this paper highlights the implications of CW4WAfghan’s Orientalist discourse on women’s rights, and tackles the difficult question of how feminists can show solidarity with Afghan women without adhering to the oppressive narratives that permeate today’s political climate. It is only by employing alternative models that contextualize the situation of Afghan women in relation, rather than in opposition, to our own, that feminists can begin to subvert the mutually reinforcing narratives that sustain imperialist violence and women’s subordination.

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