Ridded with historical inaccuracies (e.g., on the penetration of Turkmens in Iran “after the thirteenth century”) and with cut-and-dried, sometimes grotesque assertions (like: “the Turkmen society is completely traditional,” all p. 2), this short article written like a report displays portraits of four women healers of the Turkmen-Sahra area, south-east of the Caspian Sea, bordering Turkmenistan. Suggesting the variety of their respective backgrounds (from a mere initiation dream to education by a female lineage going back to several generations of practitioners in the case of herbalist Tuaq Bibi), the author, a scholar from the University of Tehran, also casts lights on the diversity of their practices (including massage, praying, and the recitation of verses “that are somehow similar to the sound of crying,” p. 7). The male healers’ techniques designated by the generic term of porkhani is elusively evoked and hastily declared similar to shamanism ― despite the presence, among these techniques, of talisman writing and of the recitation of Islamic prayers. In her general conclusions, the author draws comparative perspectives between rural and urban areas, as well as between eastern and western villages of the Turkmen-Sahra areas ― the latter introduced as more exposed to the influence of surrounding cities. Given the scarcity of available ethnographic studies about the Turkmens in general, it is even more a pity that such an article, conspicuous by its superficiality, has been published without a peer reading worthy of the name ― a usual trick of Iran and the Caucasus as far as Iranian authors are concerned.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-6.4.F-533