chapter  5
19 Pages

Wah wah! Meida meida! The changing roles of dance in Afghan society

ByJOHN BAILY

This chapter looks at changes in the role and place of dance in Afghan society over the last 30 years, from the ‘pre-war’ period of 1970s Afghanistan, to the performance of dance in the Afghan diaspora, and dance in Afghanistan itself today. This is a complicated topic because it embraces issues of gender, changes in the political situation, migration, and the adaptation of Afghans in exile to different host cultures. It has become apparent that dance is in some respects more revealing than music in analyzing the transformation of culture in a migration situation, and that may be because it involves more people in performance. Most Afghans dance, or have danced, whereas rather few sing or play musical instruments. The chapter starts with an examination of dance in the province of Herat in the 1970s. We then turn to the matter of dance in the Western diaspora amongst Afghan communities in Fremont (California) and London. There follows a short section on what is happening in Afghanistan in the domain of dance today, with special attention to the most controversial type of dance, that performed by dancing boys.1