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Talking about and Doing Elections: The Shaping of a Local Electoral Field in Western Afghanistan Open Access

This paper investigates elections as the construction of a two-faceted field in a semi-urban area in Herat, western Afghanistan. Looking at Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential and provincial council elections, the paper first surveys the elections as a discursive field. It tries to understand what the local people, given their historical and social contexts, said about the elections. The second facet examines the elections as a performative field, attempting to unpack how local actors enacted the elections. The paper shows that an election’s discursive and performative framing needs to be situated in the wider historical and social contexts of a place. It also shows that in a place where there is greater freedom immediately following an oppressive era (for instance, that of the Taliban) and where there is egalitarianism among elites, the election is turned into a lively and unpredictable process where the discourse is marked by polyphony and instability, and the performance is characterized by mobilization of ties on various fronts and by shifting differentiation of local actors on political, generational, gender, and other grounds.

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