In order to explain the historical perseverance, along modern times, of the descendants of saints among the Central Asian elites, the author uses a paradoxical sociological argumentation:  According to him, the case of the Khwajas (unfortunately, the article does not explore the complex origins and evolution of this denomination) shows that, due to their specific habitus, they were the most adaptable as well as the most competent representatives of traditional elites confronted with modernity.  Therefore, throughout the Soviet period, as well as in the pre- and post-Soviet times, the very agents of tradition became the agents of counter-tradition.  Interestingly, besides several individual examples, the article focuses on a Khwaja family of Tashkent documented by a hagiography published in 2003.  This kind of literature is indeed quite popular in Central Asia since the late 1990s.  One could add, lastly, that a historical analysis of the Khwajas on the longue durée—let’s say, since the sixteenth century—would reveal a similar relationship with modernity and with socio-political change in general.  French translation: “Les descendants de saints en Asie Centrale: élite religieuse ou nationale?,” Cahiers d’Asie Centrale 13-14 (2004): 215-30.

Alexandre Papas, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-5.3.D-453