Reviews

On a classical theme of Soviet ethnography of the Central Asian peoples, the author, a renowned specialist of the Isma‘ili communities of the Pamir, offers a description of nuptial rites (Shughnani: sur) in the central part of Tajikistani Badakhshan, from the moment of the choice of the bride to the ending of the ceremonies.  Matrimonial strategies and mutual exclusions are observed between the various estates of the Badakhshani society (the shaykhs, sayyids, shahs, mirs, khans, and “ra‘iyyats”—Shughnani: rayaten), although the author does not enter in the details of everyday practice, and does not develop on the transformations brought about in this practice along the twentieth century.  Then, the successive steps of the wedding are described, according to elders’ narratives and to the author’s personal observations—the difference between the two being not clearly indicated, which gives rise to a general ambiguity as to the nature of the realities depicted in the paper. Given the richness and the problematic character of the collected material, some conclusions would have been welcome instead of the author’s evasive valuation of a presumably timeless tradition—for instance on the Shughnani vocabulary related to the various rituals involved (in which can be felt a strong influence of modern Persian language), or on the role of local khalifas in these rituals’ implementation (they appear at various moments of the author’s account).

On the same subject, an analogous study has been devoted by the same journal, one year later, to predominantly Persian-speaking and Sunni Tajikistani Darwaz (Khorkashev Sakhidod, “Rusumi jashni arusi dar Vanju Darvoz [Nuptial Rites in Wanj and Darwaz],” Nomai pazhuhishgoh 11-12 (2006): 145-56, bibliography).  Without referring to his predecessor, this paper’s author embraces the latter’s principles and gives the vernacular denomination (in a Cyrillic transcription) and a short description of every ritual involved in wedding ceremonies in this specific region.  In spite of the author’s lack of indication as to probable differences inside Wanj between Sunni and Isma‘ili practice, and though the present paper suffers from the same methodological shortcomings as its predecessor and implicit model, the material provided here, added to Jamshedov’s, offers inter-regional comparative perspectives that still require to be enlarged to the Afghan parts of Darwaz and Badakhshan.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-7.4.E-647