Reviews

A young researcher at the Institute of Isma‘ili Studies in London, the author devotes this long descriptive article to the everyday life of a female history teacher in Tajikistani Badakhshan since the end of the Soviet period.  Based on the rather conservative dialectics of tradition vs. modernity, the study aims at showing how female teachers’ negotiation of their identity is constantly reshaped under pressure of multiple factors.  It geographically focuses on the village of Porshnev, a centre of Isma‘ili teaching situated at a point of contact with Afghanistan, in the district of Shughnan, the most modernised district of the Autonomous Region of Mountainous Badakhshan.  The teacher’s personal itinerary as a teacher and as a mother is reconstructed at length, shedding light on her difficulties as a materially-dependent Pamirian-language speaker during her studies in the capital Dushanbe, and her couple’s common hardships during the civil war and its aftermath.  The young woman’s worldview is expressed through her vision of history teaching after the curriculum change brought about by independence—the history of Tajikistan replacing that of the USSR, without adequate support, materials, and teacher training.  Noting with subtlety the young Soviet-educated woman’s trouble in front of some elements of the newly taught version of national history, the author also stresses the role of her very education in her determination to continue her work in spite of increasing difficulties, and in her way of coping with everyday corruption inside the educational system.  Her participation in the debates on reforms to be implemented in education, and the strong ethical dimension of her pedagogical activity are abundantly illustrated by concrete examples and long quotations.  Though for this same reason this article will seem to some excessively paraphrastic, it is greatly to its credit that it provides to readers unfamiliar with Badakhshan, and with the bibliography in Russian and Tajik Persian languages, an opportunity to get acquainted with elementary realities of social life in this very specific region of former Soviet Central Asia.  Though one can regret that no argument is instilled by the author on the reasons that have prevailed in his selection of his subject/informant, his work remains an extremely innovative contribution, to be continued, to the oral history and sociology of local community leaders in post-Soviet Tajikistan.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-7.4.E-650