Reviews

Unfortunately based, exclusively, on Russian textual primary sources of the Tsarist period, this contribution discusses how Islamic law has shaped social relations within pre-modern mahallas in present-day Uzbekistan, and what role kinship relations played in these neighbouring units.  The introductory paragraphs on the denominations of mahallas in vernacular languages admix local terms with Russian vocabulary (ex: tupik for “small lanes”), whilst translations between Uzbek and Tajik words often show approximate (ex: oqsoqol = arbob, the latter being poorly attested in modern use as far as Persian-speaking Central Asia is concerned).  Beyond this terminological aspect, factual mistakes reveal the author’s telling lack of familiarity with Central Asian societies (for instance when he asserts that teahouses did not exist in Bukhara . . .).  Conversely, P. G. Geiss’ discourse remains generic and extremely normative (e.g. when he affirms that the leader of both a urban or rural mahallas maintained his influence “through his personal integrity and wealth”).  His perception of Central Asian societies during the colonial period remains dominated by an elementary, very classical (multiple non-discussed references to the works by the Soviet ethnographer S. Poliakov), but undocumented dialectic between, on the first hand, the tribal nomadic world allegedly submitted to the traditional religious authority of the ishans, and Islamised sedentary communities better committed to “school Islam”.  It postulates a unilateral, if not simultaneous, “transformation from tribal qishloqs to residential qishloqs”, attaining a rare degree of simplification in the history of Central Asian societies.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-3.4.C-293