Reviews

Based on sociological fieldwork carried out in 2003 in Uzbekistan’s biggest cities, this original and subtle study, illustrated by many telling statistical tables, assesses the ways the country’s population regards its present socio-economic conditions.  In the first part, T. Dadabaev considers ethnicity, regionalism and localism as the main forms of societal identification amongst the population of Uzbekistan.  Then two chapters come on the perception of living standards and conditions, as well as on the ways on envisioning the future.  In his conclusions, the author interestingly stresses the renewed significance of the neighbourhood community and of family as the most effecting shock-absorbing social units in a period of sharp economic transition.  If the state is still perceived by people as the most effective organisation for providing their needs, the author also casts light on the increasing demand for democratisation.  As usually in this kind of inquiry on Uzbekistan, some officially registered national groups, beginning with the Tajiks, are underrepresented in the global sampling, their number (18 Tajiks for 464 Uzbeks, for instance) managing to show still lower than in official statistics of the country—Russians being overestimated (122 representatives in the sample).  Curiously enough, elder generations have also been kept out of the sampling, no explanation being given for such a choice.  Besides, the present work being based on official statistics and categories totally unquestioned by the author, very few attention, if any, has been devoted to infra-national ethnic groups or numerically small minorities (the “others” of government-sponsored figures), the identity of which has been flourishing but coping with increasing difficulty in recent years.  Last, no question has been raised on the weak ethnic consciousness expressed by Tajiks and Karakalpaks to an author perhaps perceived by the latter as a representative of government authorities—an aspect central in anthropological research, but often omitted in sociological studies.  Confrontation with a larger typology of sources would perhaps have driven the author to less univocal conclusions (for instance on the strong ethnic identity expressed by the Uzbeks, contrary to Tajiks and Karakalpaks).  Other notions would probably have deserved more critical assessment—e.g., the identification of religion with tradition (an association qualified by recent sociological research on industrialised societies).  Such reservations notwithstanding, the present study offers a captivating glance at the present state of Uzbekistani society, shedding interesting light on its modernity—expanding religious practice being part and parcel of it— and to the fact that poverty is increasingly considered one of the main issues of concern for a solid majority—though the association of low living standards with specific ethnic (or sub-ethnic) groups has been carefully avoided in the present study.  See also, by the same author: “Post-Soviet Realities of Society in Uzbekistan,” Central Asian Survey 23/2 (2004): 141-66; “Measuring Societies and Lifestyles in Central Asia: Beginning of the Process,” RICAS Newsletter 13 (2005): 2-4.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-7.4.G-668