Katrin Gratz: Verwandtschaft, Geschlecht und Raum – Aspekte weiblicher Lebenswelt in Gilgit, Nordpakistan. With an English Summary [PDF]


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XIV, 710 pp.
10 colour photos, 1 colour map, 2 b/w maps, 8 colour illustrations, 7 b/w illustrations, 3 genealogies, 1 table, appendix: glossary, list of persons, summary

Text language: German

The present ethnographical work is the result of a long term field research in North Pakistan. More than one and a half year the author participated in everyday-life of two families in Gilgit, a dynamic and rapidly changing town in the Karakorum Mountains. Against the background of rigid Muslim sex-segregation she describes the everyday chores of the women and girls, their limited mobility and their – often conflict-riddled – interactions in the family and neighbourhood. The spacial confinements of the female life-world, its rootedness in the domestic daily life, and the outsized meaning of kin relations become apparent.

At the same time the book shows how actively women and girls deal with the potentialities and dangers of their changing living conditions. Aspects which too often remain neglected, because women act in secrecy or because they are considered powerless and passive to begin with, are specifically taken into account. Thus the work is on the one hand an ethnography of the “small things”, the everyday acts and encounters. On the other hand the author worked out essential structural principles determining everyday female life. These principles are not restricted to North Pakistan but applicable to large parts of the country as well as to Afghanistan and other regions of the Muslim world. Numerous elaborate diagrams illustrate these basic structures.

The domain of family and household – womens’ primary sphere of influence – are still regarded as hardly accessible in the ethnography of Pakistan, and are therefore largely neglected. In contrast, the author shows that it is quite feasible for a female researcher to be admitted to households and to monitor Pakistani family life – provided she is ready to pay the price: she has to give up the privileged role of the researcher; she has to accept that, once “inside”, the research no longer proceeds at her discretion. And she has to face the fact that her methods turn out to be incompatible with the subject of the research. This specific research situation – thoroughly analysed in the introduction – has left its mark: the author avoids an all too scientific vocabulary, the references to scholarly debates remain implicit, and the rendering is rather unconventional.

Thus, Verwandtschaft, Geschlecht und Raum is also an experiment in ethnographical writing. The author tries to transfer as much of the original ethnographical experience as possible into the text. The mere fragmentation of experience und its subjugation to professional and representational interests is being complemented by the very power of the experienced life itself. Quotations from the author’s field diaries permeate the text. As a result the experiencing subject is integrated into the text without being the focus of attention. For students this book provides valuable insights into the process of field research, its richness of experience, and the different levels of ethnographical analyses and evaluation – in the field as well as at the writing desk back home.

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