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Sorrow and Joy among Muslim Women
The Pukhtuns of Northern Pakistan


Part of University of Cambridge Oriental Publications

  • Date Published: February 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521052702

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About the Authors
  • The Pukhtuns are numerically and politically one of the most significant ethno-linguistic groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This important study of Pukhtun society concentrates on the lives, thoughts and gham-khadi (funerals-weddings) ceremonies of the women, especially of the elite, wealthy and educated women (Bibiane) who have largely been overlooked in previous studies. Contesting their conventional representation as idle, it illustrates their commitment to various forms of work within familial and social contexts. It challenges the commonly assumed models of contemporary Pakistan society, which make a simplistic divide between rural and urban, Punjab and non-Punjab, and feudal and non-feudal spaces and peoples. It also contributes to broader debates about the nature and expression of elite cultures and issues of sociality, funerals and marriage, custom and religion, space and gender, morality and reason, and social role and personhood within the contexts of Islam in the Middle East and South Asia.

    • Offers a post-9/11 insight into the heart of Pukhtun culture and society - the tribal society of the Taliban
    • Challenges the sophisticated body of literature on the Pukhtun people
    • Provides a unique insight into the lives of Pukhtun women because the author, as a woman, could gain first-hand experience
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This work, based on extensive fieldwork in an area inaccessible to those without Dr Ahmed's formidable linguistic skills and cultural experience, is absolutely unique. It is the first major study of Pukhtun women, done with the trained eye of a skilled anthropologist, and obvious respect for her subject matter.' Tamara Sonn, William R. Kenan Jr Distinguished Professor of Humanities, College of William and Mary, Virginia

    'This work is sensitive, timely and anthropologically sophisticated and will add considerable nuance to the understanding of the nature of life in Pakistan today.' Caroline Humphrey, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

    'With her sophisticated sense of ethnic and religious identity in northern Pakistan, Amineh Ahmed has drawn on her own exceptional eye for detail and the voices of the people to render a brilliant portrait of women, power and the key life-cycle rituals that create and confirm social obligation. Her humane and incisive account has profound implications for understanding not only Pukhtun culture but the very nature of form and ambiguity in social and religious life generally.' Lawrence Rosen, Cromwell Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University

    'Sorrow and Joy among Muslim Women is an important study as it challenges some conventional male perspectives of Pakhtun ethnography and also contributes to the anthropology of elites in South Asia.' Rezensionen

    '… fascinating ethnography … The book is well written; it is short and tight, yet full of good stories and clever insights. … a serious and important contribution to the ethnography of the Northwest Frontier Province, to the study of elites, and to feminist anthropology.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521052702
    • length: 240 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 153 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.373kg
    • contains: 21 b/w illus. 3 maps 7 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of plates
    List of figures
    List of maps
    List of tables
    Note on transliteration
    1. Gham-khādi: framework and fieldwork
    2. From the inside-out: Bibiane's 'dual lives' in and beyond the house
    3. The work of mourning: death and dismay among Bibiane
    4. Celebrating khādi: communal Pukhtun weddings and clandestine internet marriages
    5. The work of gham-khādi: 'not to do gham-khādi is shameful (sharam)
    to do it a burden'

  • Author

    Amineh Ahmed, Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge
    Amineh Ahmed Hoti is a member of the Faculty of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge and a Visiting Scholar at Lucy Cavendish College, where she leads a society for interfaith dialogue.

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