War and What Remains: Everyday Life In Contemporary Kabul, Afghanistan
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This dissertation explores everyday life amidst war and occupation in Kabul, Afghanistan. It is based on more than three years of anthropological fieldwork conducted between 2006 to 2008; and 2009 to 2011. The lives of Afghans in Kabul unfold not only in a space constituted by violence but at the intersection of several moral projects. The current moralizing projects of war and humanitarianism have followed a succession of regimes of violence, including: the Taliban regime (1996-2001), the Kabul Wars (1992-1996), and the Soviet War and Occupation (1978-1989). The ethnography that forms this dissertation focuses at the points where the moral projects intersect in the lives of Afghans and aims to explore the conditions under which Afghans negotiate these projects, and the associated competing logics and practices. Widows and orphans are subject positions that come out of war and humanitarianism, and thus the lives of widows and orphans figure prominently. A widow-run bakery, monthly food ration distribution sites of an international NGO for the most vulnerable widows of Kabul, a newly opened University, and Ministerial offices for the families of Martyrs are institutional sites where I conducted the bulk of my ethnographic field research but are also the settings where the moralizing projects converge. I have aimed to pay particular attention to the lives and aspirations of Afghans and how they inhabit a space marked by such extraordinary events as serial war and humanitarianism. I use the theoretical framework of ordinary ethics as it allowed me to attend to what Afghans do and say in everyday action and ordinary language. I believe my work can make a contribution to the emerging body of literature on ordinary ethics in offering a lens to understand how people subjected to extraordinary and serial uncertainty and violence cultivate sensibilities and pursue ethical aspirations as a way of becoming ethical subjects within the everyday, despite the fact that the everyday is in itself subject to extraordinary contingencies. In this regard, my dissertation offers insights into ordinary ethics and the ethical striving of widows, an orphan, state bureaucrats and families of police killed in the line of duty.