Reviews

This very detailed and innovative ethnographic analysis takes critical distance from the somehow repetitive studies on Islam and politics in Central Asia. Based on a two-year field work in two very different regions of Uzbekistan, Andijan and Samarqand, Islam in Post-Soviet Uzbekistan demonstrates how, in a country where the Islamic debate is a monopoly of the state, citizens still live their faith and religion and get answers to their various spiritual questions. Instead of looking at how the State institutions control religion, the author focuses on the individual and collective initiatives to get round official regulations and norms, and on how people live and practice Islam on a day-to-day basis. The analysis applies to Uzbekistan, but much of its findings and conclusions are relevant for other Central Asian societies. The first chapter is dedicated to the descriptive analysis of the environment in which research was conducted. The author deals here with the consequences of the 2005 Andijan repressed revolt, after which the state increased its control over Islam, adopting a more radical attitude against all non-accredited forms of Islamic practice and proselytism. The author shows how social networks facilitated the development of religiosity, independently from the state religious institutions. The second part of the book focuses more on the individuals and their day-to-day practice of religion. It provides a rich analysis of how they relate to God, to spirits, what use they make of religion for physical and mental healing purposes. According to J. Rasanayagam, the debate over the existence of spirits in Islam is particularly interesting and informative on the local interpretation of what Islam is and what its contents shall be. For the author, the border between the global vision of Islam and its local practice is extremely blurred. The third part is the most interesting of all and the most complex, as it contains most of the demonstration. Because of a much restrictive official Islam, people have to make delicate individual choices so as to live according to their religious beliefs. This richly illustrated monograph contains a much appreciated index that makes our use of the text easier. It is undoubtedly a wonderful contribution for a better understanding of Islam in all Central Asia.

Bayram Balci, Centre for International Studies and Researches, Paris
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