The construction of masculinity and gender identity in Afghan Pashtun men

Andrea Chiovenda, Boston University

My fieldsite is in Nangarhar province, south-east Afghanistan, some 30 kilometers west of the Pakistani border. I am investigating the construction and performance of masculinity and gender identity in Afghan Pashtun men. Pashtun society is a highly sex-segregated environment, where men have to live up to a strong and rigid stereotype of hypermasculinity, which I found gives rise – in those who perceive the stereotype as ego-dystonic – to a condition of anxiety and intrapsychic conflict. Methodologically, I have been working along the lines of what R. LeVine, D. Hollan, and R. Levy have defined as “person-centered ethnography,” that is, an inquiry into individuals’ subjective motives, meanings, and emotions, by means of series of in-depth interview sessions. The funding I received from the Lemelson Fellowship has proven crucial, in that it allowed me to conduct a three month-long fieldwork, which greatly helped me to narrow down the focus of my future long-term research.