A Historical Materialist Explanation of Honour-related Violence
Tahira S. Khan
Misperceived, ill-informed and narrowly researched documentaries, research studies and newspaper reports presented in the US and Europe have created an impression that honour related violence against women occurs only in Asian and African Muslim communities, mainly due to their backward and conservative cultural and religious beliefs. Such mis/interpretations and ethno-centric portrayals of multi-faceted violence have invoked criticism from various communities across the globe.
The main focus of previous studies on the subject has been on the socio-cultural aspect of honour/shame and its implications for female bodies and sexualities. This study is an attempt to look beyond the cultural notion of honour as the main/only motive behind gender based violence. By focusing on honour related violence in the Muslim world, and especially in Pakistan, this study attempts to explain the origin and persistence of the honour/shame code by applying Marx's Historical Materialist approach. This approach takes readers from the ancient, medieval to the modern/current histories of religious, legal, social and political institutions. The comparative historical approach in this study identifies the materialist/economic basis of the origin and persistence of honour related violence in some societies, and the absence of such violence in others.
The study is a blend of academic research and personal experiences and observation that examine honour related issues through the lens of historical academic research along with a simple narration of present day stories of victims around the globe.
Tahira S. Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Studies from the University of Denver, Colorado. In 1986, she joined the University of Karachi as Senior Research Fellow cum Lecturer. She has also taught at the University of Denver, University of Colorado, Boulder and the Metropolitan State College, Denver as an adjunct Faculty at the Departments of Political Science and Women's Studies. She joined the Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development Karachi as Assistant Professor, Gender Studies in 2000. Since 2002, she has been a private consultant and researcher on women's/gender issues.
She has also published numerous articles and research reports in various national and international journals and newspapers and has extensively attended international conferences and seminars and made numerous presentations. Besides her academic appointments, as a women's/human rights activist, she has been affiliated with the Asian Pacific Women, Law and Development Forum (APWLD), Chiangmai since 1997 and is Convener, Women's Participation in Political Processes (WPPP). In 2003, she was elected Vice President of the Irteqa Institute of Social Sciences, Karachi.
At present, Dr Khan is teaching Gender Studies courses at a university in the United States.
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