The Kalasha are a dynamic community of about three thousand people living in three tiny finger valleys near Chitral, Pakistan. A tumultuous history has left them the only remaining practitioners of cultural and religious traditions that once extended across the Hindukush into Afghanistan. The Kalasha differ in many ways from the conservative Muslim communities now surrounding them.
Yet despite their obvious religious differences with nearby communities, when asked what makes the Kalasha unique, both men and women often reply, Our women are free (homa istrizia azat asan). The concept that Kalasha women are free (azat), that they have choice (chit), is a topic of spirited conversation among the Kalasha. It touches at the heart of both individual women's identities and the collective identity of the community.
Our Women are Free introduces the historical and cultural landscape of the Kalasha and describes the role that women's freedom plays as an ethnic marker for the entire community. Throughout the narrative, Wynne Maggi stays close to conversations and events that illustrate the daily life of the community, focusing particularly on the Kalasha people's sense of humor; on the pleasure they take in work, children, ritual, and relationships; as well as on the complexity and seriousness of their social lives.
Accessible and thought-provoking, Our Women are Free will be of interest to professional anthropologists, area scholars, and other social scientists.
Wynne Maggi teaches anthropology and women's studies at the University of Colorado.