Urbanization, Islamization, and identity crisis : the role of Pashtun women’s mourning in the construction and maintenance of identity

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Schweiss, Amy Ann

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Despite prohibitions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad strictly forbidding the practice of dramatic acts of public mourning, Muslim women have persisted in wailing performances throughout history and across boarders. Pashtun social ethics require women to participate in visitation exchanges commemorating sorrowful and joyous events experienced by members of their social circle known as gham-xadi exchanges. These exchanges, which involve performative mourning rites, affirm a woman’s place in society through the maintenance of complex social networks. This research examines the role ritualized mourning performances play in the construction and maintenance of ethnic and religious identities among Pashtun women living in Pakistan. It explores the opposing pressures of Islamic prescription and Pashtun traditions regarding funerary rites and women’s mourning, arguing that social changes taking place in recent decades have caused these pressures to come into increasing conflict with one another. While urbanization and the shift from an agrarian to an industrial based economy in Pakistan has led to the amplified importance of wailing performances, globalization and growing exposure to the West has revitalized anxieties surrounding proper religious practices. The process of Islamization occurring through constitutional and educational reforms in Pakistan compounds this anxiety. These tensions have created an identity crisis among Pashtun women in Pakistan who are then forced to reconcile these disparate demands resulting in the layering of their identities.



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