The Performance of Emotion Among Paxtun Women: "the Misfortunes which Have Befallen Me"

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University of Texas Press, Jan 1, 1992 - Social Science - 241 pages
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Sharing tales of misfortune is a common practice among women in many cultures. Among the Paxtun, an Islamic, Paxto-speaking group living in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, these stories of grief or sadness (gham) are a vital medium of exchange, through which relationships are formed and maintained. Indeed, as Benedicte Grima asserts in this engrossing study, performing these rituals of grief and suffering largely defines what it means to be an honorable Paxtun woman.
Drawing on fieldwork conducted over the period 1978-1987, Grima shows how the performance of gham is the female counterpart of better-known male obligations (such as revenge killing) that maintain family standing and honor. Her research includes both life histories ("the misfortunes which have befallen me") and illness and misfortune narratives, as well as the contexts in which these stories are normally recounted. Her access to different levels of Paxtun society provides a broad picture of how this ritual grieving is performed throughout the culture.
Based on the premise that emotions are not spontaneous and involuntary, but rather culturally taught and performed, this work uses emotion to illuminate the construction of female identity in Paxtun and Islamic culture. In addition to its obvious audiences in Middle Eastern and women's studies, it will be important to everyone working in the ethnography of communication, performance analysis, and the anthropology of emotion.

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