George Mason University professor Ben Gatling
’s debut book, Expressions of Sufi Culture in Tajikistan
(University of Wisconsin Press, 2018), is a beautifully written ethnography exploring the lives, religious practice, and narratives of Sufi believers near Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Through close examination of historical narratives, nostalgia, material practice, ritual, and more, Ben shows how his interlocutors link their faith and their practice with the religious and expressive traditions of Central Asian Islam. The alternative temporalities and asynchronies present in these narratives provide persuasive counter-narratives to the Tajik state’s ideologies. At the same time, he shows that reading these narratives “simply” as resistance is not accurate, but as a way of shaping their own experiences of the present.
Timothy Thurston is Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds. His research examines language at the nexus of tradition and modernity in China’s Tibet.