16 April 2007

Veiled Empire

I'm working my way through an excellent book on Uzbekistan in the early Soviet years, Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia by Douglas Northrop. It focuses on the 10-year Soviet effort to force women in Uzbekistan to unveil (the hujum). Similar moves were taking place throughout the Islamic world at about the same time and it's interesting to compare motives and methods, particularly in Turkey and Afghanistan.

This is unquestionably an important book. Northrop uses Russian and Uzbek sources and thoroughly outlines the hujum and its effects. He explores how the Soviets in part created the conflict in the first place, through using Uzbek women to define the correct way to be Uzbek, to the colonialist attitudes of the Soviets in trying to remake Central Asian society. It is pleasant to read and highly recommended for those interested in Central Asia, Islam, or women in general (the pictures alone are amazing-who can pass up a book with a cover like this?).

It's too bad the only review on Amazon is by the prolific and misguided Seth J. Frantzman. His criticism of Veiled Empire is no different- the Russians were imperialists in Central Asia and if he really thinks Central Asians are "mostly of ethnic Mongolian stock who had recently been converted to Islam" then he needs to go back and reread some of the other books on Central Asia he's reviewed. I don't think I'm the only one annoyed by him. Try searching for his name sometime.


  1. I can't stand Seth Frantzman either! Who is this guy? He's got a review of EVERY SINGLE Russia/Central Asia book on Amazon, it seems like.

  2. How dare Seth Frantzman review every book about Russia, he only lived there and studied Russian, heaven forbid he should dare to review books about the bloody place. Why should he dare to have an opinion that might be different than other readers or than the author, it would surely be better if he kept his opinions to himself and never disagreed with what an author said.

    -But I once saw a card that said "if everyone is thinking the same thing then someone isn't thinking." I would suggest that blindly beleiving everything you read is shear tomfoolery.

    Seth J. Frantzman