In her presentation, Zulfiya argued how women’s spaces of empowerment and ritual activities respond to rapid political and socio-economic changes in post-Soviet period, providing organic peacebuilding venues. Otins are women who lead women’s rituals, officiate at life cycle events (birth, marriage, and funerals) and provide informal Qur’anic education to young girls and women in their homes. Women’s peacebuilding activities are demonstrated in rituals. These rituals show influences from contemporary Islam but also incorporate pre-Islamic religious influences from Zoroastrianism, shamanism, and animism: otins’ practices are saturated with mysticism and traditional spiritual beliefs. They also draw on Sufi practices; participants of gatherings known as mavlud and ihson join in chanting and recitation of poems or religious texts. These ritual processes create meaning and legitimize true Muslim practices and notions of Muslim selfhood that enable women in Uzbekistan to deal with trauma, injustice, and oppression. Otins and women who are participants in ritual are agents enacting true heterodox knowledge for peacebuilding and community empowerment. Through rituals, women negotiate and contest knowledge regarding what constitutes Islam and its practices; they determine their multiple Muslim identities, feel empowered and supported, and create shared ways to address community issues.
The speaker received support from the Campbell Faculty Development Travel fund.