States of Honor: Sexual Ethics and the Politics of Promiscuity in Afghanistan

Sonia Ahsan

Deposited 2015

Abstract
This dissertation is based on field-work conducted at a khane-aman (home of peace) in Kabul in 2011-2012. In this dissertation, I have argued that the Afghan state vacillates between a rational-honorable mode and an unintelligible promiscuous mode. In its rational-honorable mode, the state institutes norms and regulations and develops institutional infrastructures for their implementation. The state also manifests another mode, which I am calling a promiscuous mode. To engage in promiscuity is to cater to the basest and most abject fantasies, to indulge in the regions of precariousness and vulnerability. This vacillation produces the Afghan state as both feared and desired, as transparent and opaque. Carnal punishments like flogging or stoning render present the distant force of the law into the context of everyday lives. Here the state takes on a different presence, a promiscuous one, in which the spectacular threat of violence is brought into the midst of the communal formations. Once the state institutes these punishments, it opens up the possibility of misplaced blames and wrongful retribution. It is in these realms of indecorum and solecism that the state reinvents and reveals itself.