Reviews

This paper aims at building an anthropological analysis of songs in Uzbek rituals of toy, but the approach is rather a literary one, as the author focuses on texts as if they were revealing the real structures of Uzbek society, in a view that reminds Franz Boas’ one in Race, Language and Culture (London: Macmillan, 1940). He thus takes for granted all the symbolic roles of family, neighbourhood, etc., celebrated in songs, but does not confront them to real situations, and then ends up in an apology of an idealised Uzbek society. The transcription and translation of three songs taken from a kelin salom (welcoming of the bride; for an anthropological analysis of this ritual, see my review of Tanya Merchant Henson in Central Eurasian Reader 1 (2008): No. 677 pp. 539-40), a sonnat toy (for circumcision), and a compliment of a son to his mother, do give lots of data, which are unfortunately only seen by the author as a “concise catalogue of traditional social roles” (173) which he well describes, but does not analyse, postulating the lack of a discrepancy of any kind between poetry and real life. Musical issues are not really tackled, the author preferring to focus on “Sufi features” that he has been discovering everywhere, for example in the use of nay (flute, described as the Sufi instrument par excellence) and poetical messages (175, about the sunnat toy song: “Consistent with the perennial Central Asian Muslim worldview, taken as a whole this song suggests that the best way to face the “immensity” is with stoicism and humanity.”) Even if the social roles of family and parents are underlined and well-seen, poetry seems to be analysed in a very personal way, as the author affirms (179) that Uzbek poetry should be opposed to Persian or Chaghatay in his use of “iconic nature image” (which, he says, does not exist in Persian poetry) that refers to “old Pre-Islamic nature religion”. The conclusion gives an out-of-context point of view, emphasising the resistance of Uzbek society to American consumerism. The most interesting point remains the transcription and translation of texts.

Ariane Zevaco, School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, Paris
CER: II-6.4.G-543