Amel Abbady deposited Afghanistan’s “Bacha Posh”: Gender-Crossing in Nadia Hashimi’s The Pearl That Broke Its Shell on MLA Commons 10 months, 1 week ago
This article explores the tradition of Bacha Posh in Afghan culture as depicted in Afghan-American Nadia Hashimiʼs debut novel The Pearl that Broke its Shell (2014). In this novel, Hashimi shows how Afghan girls are obliged to cross-dress and live dual lives as boys for several years to lay claim for their rights to education and freedom of movement. Unlike the ʻtransvestitesʼ in Western culture whose cross-dressing is read mostly as a marker of transsexual and/or gay identity, the tradition of bacha posh in Afghanistan is recognized and practiced by society as a long-established cultural. Drawing on the complex interplay between cross-dressing, transgender identity, and Judith Butlerʼs theory of gender performativity, this article argues that Afghan culture, though deeply misogynistic, destigmatizes the act of cross-dressing by coding the bacha posh tradition, not as a transgression of gender norms but as a legitimate cultural practice. By institutionalizing cross-dressing, Afghan culture changes, though in all probability unintentionally, the categorization of cross-dressing from a stigmatizing deviant act to an effective survival strategy.