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This article will examine how rural Afghan women employ practices of everyday resistance as a means of challenging extremely patriarchal power structures and male domination in Afghanistan. The research presented illustrates how rural women simultaneously support and reproduce patriarchal societal structures and values through quiet encroachment of public spaces and the labour market as well as conscious adherence to certain patriarchal norms.
Through a qualitative research method consisting of eleven focus groups with 130 rural women from four districts, across two provinces in Afghanistan, a structurationist approach is employed in order to fully account for the interaction and interrelationship between dominant, male-privileging structures of power and rural women’s agency. Significantly, these women, through the intentions behind their practices of everyday resistance and encroachment upon public spaces, demonstrate that they do not wish to eradicate patriarchy, but rather to transform it into a more benign structure of power which conforms to the women’s interpretation of Islam. This is a construction of Islam which accommodates women as individuals with agency and ability, enabling them to take advantage of independent mobility, provide for their families, and send their children (sons and daughters) to school.
Thus, these women deliberately engage in everyday resistance to extreme manifestations of patriarchy, but simultaneously consciously adhere to, and subtly advocate for, more benevolent patriarchal social norms.
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