Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 264–285 | Cite as

Suicidal Performances: Voicing Discontent in a Girls’ Dormitory in Kabul

  • Julie BillaudEmail author
Original Paper


Female suicide in Afghanistan has generally been given economic and psychological explanations. More rarely has its social dimension been analysed. In this paper, I underline the communicative potential of Afghan women’s suicide in the ‘post-war/reconstruction’ context. I highlight its ambiguous symbolic power and its anchorage in the subversive imaginary universe of women’s poetic expression. I argue that while reproducing certain cultural ideas about women’s inherent emotional fragility, women’s suicide also challenges the honour system in powerful ways and opens possibilities for voicing discontent. I qualify female suicide as the ‘art of the weak’ (De Certeau 1980, 6), a covert form of protest, a performance—in the sense of Bauman (2004)—that builds upon traditional popular ‘knowledge’ about gender in order to manage the impression of an audience and make women’s claims audible.


Suicide Performance Emotions Gender Resistance 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Forum Transregional Studies, Humboldt University, ‘Legal Cultures’ ProgramBerlinGermany

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