Luong and her colleagues challenge basic assumptions said to have guided earlier studies of Central Asia: that the Soviet system only superficially penetrated traditional cultural norms and organizations, that Islam was a force waiting to be unleashed, and that the Central Asian republics were more colonies than an integral part of the Soviet Union. In a series of detailed essays examining the situation of women, the role of nongovernmental organizations, center-regional relations, and the place of culture and language, the contributors contend that the Soviet legacy looms large, regional divisions rather than clans or tribes define the political arena, leaders exploit rather than subscribe to pre-Soviet traditions, and Islam is tamed and localized. This in turn is fed into the larger disciplinary debate over the relationship between state and society. Even where not fully convincing-for example, on how thoroughly effaced traditional behaviors are-the argument is fresh and stimulating.
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