Queer Afghanistan

Where Bombs Drop, Where Men Dance
Nov 9, 2022 at - | COHN 402

Queer Afghanistan
Sponsored by
Department of English
Ahmad Qais Munhazim, Dagmawi Woubshet, Abdulhamit Arvas


War and dance are two entangled experiences of mine growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan. I danced while the house next door was hit by a rocket. I danced while everyone gathered in the middle of our living room in 1996 deciding on an escape route out of Afghanistan. A decade later, I returned to the city I left as a political asylee. I encountered both war and dance upon my arrival.  On the same day, a school was blown up by a suicide bomber a couple of miles down from a dance club where I was sitting with a roomful of murats, queer and trans Afghans dancing to Afghan, Arabic and Bollywood songs on a crowded street of Kabul. The two decades of the US military invasion of Afghanistan and continued imperial violence have deteriorated security and everyday life for Afghans, particularly for those who identify as murat. Despite these challenges, emergence of underground murat movement situates sexuality in historical Afghanistan and within the context of local and regional cultures and everyday politics. From language to dance, relationsex and relationships, murats in Kabul trouble western notions of queerness. As subaltern subjects, what does it mean to trouble queer as universal? How do murats in Kabul patriciate in queer worldmaking by dancing from morning to family curfews in a city that experiences suicide bombing, roadside bombs, kidnapping and foreign military occupation? In what ways does dance become resistance to war? Based on a de/colonial ethnographic study of everyday murat life in Kabul, I theorize dance as a form of resistance to war and I argue that queer and trans individuals in Afghanistan challenge the masculine structures of war through their bodies, dance and coded language, creating de/colonial queer worlds at home and in the diasporas. 

Ahmad Qais Munhazim (they/them), a genderqueer Afghan, Muslim and perpetually displaced, is an assistant professor of global studies at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. As an interdisciplinary scholar, de/colonial ethnographer and artist, Munhazim’s work troubles borders of academia, art and activism while exploring everyday experiences of war and displacement in the lives of queer and trans Afghans. Munhazim holds a PhD in political science from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Currently, Munhazim is preparing their book manuscript based on a de/colonial ethnography of queer and trans Afghans in Afghanistan and its diasporas.