“The Discursive Construction of Afghan Women in US Political Discourse” studies how women’s rights in Afghanistan are used in American policymaking as tools of argument to advance their policy agendas. I am studying the ways in which policymakers use women’s rights to support their arguments and denigrate their opponents. To answer this question, I read transcripts from the Senate and House of Representatives and analyzed them according to grounded theory. This means that I was pulling out quotes that mentioned Afghan women and categorizing them according to the purpose they served. As I got deeper into my sources, I was able to expand my categories into subgenres and find connections between them. I documented all of these processes in theory memos, which are the equivalent of field notes in a discourse analysis.
I became interested in this project when thinking about the nature of moral and humanitarian issues in political debate, specifically how humanitarian issues are linked to policy, and how anyone opposed to those policies can then be branded anti-humanitarian. To examine how this phenomenon occurs I chose to examine one humanitarian issue’s trajectory in political debates.
In the long-term I hope to apply what I found in my research to raising the level conscientiousness in foreign policymaking. While consideration of women’s rights in constructing foreign policy is undeniably important and necessary, my findings indicate that the US may be failing to do so in a way that is responsible and constructive.