Women’s Narratives: Resistance to Oppression and the Empowerment of Women in Uzbekistan


  • Zulfiya Tursunova


empowerment, livelihoods, land tenure changes, narrative, Uzbekistan, women


The article presents women’s narratives to understand gendered aspects of socio- economic and political transformations in women’s lives in post-Soviet Central Asia. The author considers that narrative functions within a multi-disciplinary theory,

research, and practice of livelihood, empowerment and conflict resolution. Given the colonial representations of women in the past and the storytelling ambiguity in misrepresenting women’s lives and locating them in marginal spaces in the narrative and society, the Soviet authorities claimed to end the seclusion of women ignoring women’s voices and social movements for equality and social change in the society. The article aims to understand gendered aspects of socio-economic and political transformations in women’s lives in post-Soviet Central Asia through women’s narratives. These narratives, based on oral history and autobiography rather than writings based on Soviet sources, demonstrate a complex picture of women’s struggles in their families and communities. Women describe their social, economic and environmental stresses and the ways they learn to live with social changes and empower themselves.


Akram-Lodhi, A. H. (2013). Hungry for change: Farmers, food justice and the agrarian question. Black Point, NS: Fernwood.

Aminova, R. H. (1969). Agrarnye preobrazovaniia v Uzbekistane nakanune sploshnoi kollektivizatsii (1925-1929). Tashkent, Uzbekistan: Fan Uzbekskoi SSR.

Anderson, K., & Lawrence, B. (Eds.). (2003). Strong women stories: Native vision and community survival. Toronto, ON: Sumach Press.

Batliwala, S. (1993). Empowerment of women in South Asia: Concepts and practices. New Delhi, India: FAO-FFHC/AD.

Bikzhanova, M. A., Zadykina, K. L., & Sukhareva, O. A. (1974). The Uzbeks: Social and family life. In S. P. Dunn & E. Dunn (Eds.), Introduction to Soviet ethnography (Vol. 1, pp. 239-272). Berkeley, CA: Copy Centers of Berkeley.

Chambers, R., & Conway, G. (1992). Sustainable rural livelihoods: Practical concepts for the 21st century (No. 296 IDS Discussion Paper). Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.

Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York, NY: Routledge.

Cruikshank, J. (1998). Discovery of gold on the Klondike: Perspectives from oral tradition. In J. S. H. Brown & E. Vibert (Eds.), Reading beyond words: Contexts for native history (pp. 433-453). Toronto, ON: Broadview Press.

Denzin, N. K. (1989). Interpretive interactionism. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

DFID. (2001). Sustainable livelihoods guidance sheets. London, UK: Department for International Development.

Ellis, F. (2000). Rural livelihoods and diversity in developing countries. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Foucault, M. (1972). The archaeology of knowledge and the discourse on language (A. M. S. Smith, Trans.). New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

Haraway, D. (1991). Simians, cyborgs and women: The reinvention of women. New York, NY: Routledge.

Irigaray, L. (1977). This sex which is not one. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Johnson, H. (1992). Women’s empowerment and public action: Experiences from Latin America. In T. Hewitt, M. Wuyts, & M. Mackintosh (Eds.), Development policy and public action (pp. l47-174). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Kabeer, N. (1999). The conditions and consequences of choice: Reflections on the measurement of women’s empowerment (No. 108 UNRISD Discussion Paper). Geneva, Switzerland.

Kabeer, N. (2001). Reflections on the measurement of women’s empowerment. Discussing women’s empowerment - Theory and practice. Stockholm,Sweden: Novum Grafiska AB.

Kamp, M. (2005). Gender ideals and income realities: Discourses about labor and gender in Uzbekistan. Nationalities Papers, 3(3), 403-422.

Kamp, M. (2006). The new woman in Uzbekistan. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.

Kandiyoti, D. (1999). Rural domestic economy and female labour supply in Uzbekistan: Assessing the feasibility of gender targeted micro credit schemes. School of Oriental

and African Studies, University of London.

Kandiyoti, D. (2003). The cry for land: Agrarian reform, gender and land rights in Uzbekistan. Journal of agrarian change, 3(1 & 2), 225-256.

Massell, G. J. (1974). The surrogate proletariat: Moslem women and revolutionary strategies in Soviet Central Asia, 1919-1929. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

McCall, S. (2011). First person plural: Aboriginal storytelling and the ethics of collaborative authorship. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

Menchu, R. (1983). I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian woman in Guatemala (A. Wright, Trans.). London, UK: Verso Press.

Mohanty, C. (1988). Under western eyes: Feminist scholarship and colonial discourses. Feminist Review, 30, 61-88.

Northrop, D. T. (2004). Veiled empire: Gender and power in Stalinist Central Asia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Pierce, R. (1960). Russian Central Asia: A study in colonial rule, 1865-1917 Berkley, CA: University of California Press.

Poliakov, S. P. (1992). Everyday Islam: Religion and tradition in rural Central Asia. London, UK: M.E. Sharpe.

Senehi, J. (1996). Storytelling and conflict: A mater of life and death. Mind and Human Interaction, 7(3), 150-164.

Senehi, J. (2009). Building peace: Storytelling to transform conflicts constructively. In D. Sandole, S. Byrne, I. Sandole-

Staroste, & J. Senehi (Eds.), Handbook of conflict analysis and resolution (pp. 201-214). New York, NY: Routledge.

Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples. London, UK: Zed Books.

Snesarev, G. P. (1974). On some causes of the persistence of religio-customary survivals among the Khorezm Uzbeks. In S. P. Dunn & E. Dunn. (Ed.), (Vol.1, pp. 215-239). Berkeley, CA: Copy Centers of Berkley.

Tohtahodjaeva, M. (1996). Mejdy lozungami kommunizma i zakonami Islama. Lahore, Pakistan: Shirkat Gah.

Tursunova, Z. (2012a). Climate change, livelihoods, and food security in post- Soviet Uzbekistan. Women and Environments, 88/89, 23-24.

Tursunova, Z. (2012b). Post-Soviet Uzbekistan: The implications of land reforms on women’s livelihood. Journal of Human Security, 8(2), 125-145.

Tursunova, Z. (2013). Health, mobility, livelihood and social change in the lives of women in rural Uzbekistan. In G. T. Bonifacio (Ed.), Gender and rural migration: Realities, conflict and change (pp. 196-232). New York, NY: Routledge.

Wall, C. (2006). Knowledge management in rural Uzbekistan: Peasant, project and post-socialist perspectives in Khorezm. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Center for Development Research, University of Bonn, Germany.

Yakvalhodjiev, F. (2003). Hack workers, people and roles: Gender format (Materials of the program Gender politics and mass media in post-Soviet space). Sankt-Peterburg: Zvezda.