Traditional folk rituals and ceremonies as space for agency, power, and harmony for Uzbek women in Surkhandarya
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The belief in healing practices in rural areas in Uzbekistan was historically and socio-culturally constructed through textual and oral narratives for centuries. The Islamification of Central Asia in the eighth century had an effect in creating new forms of Islamic practices, known as Mystical Islam, at the core of which women played an essential role in keeping ancient knowledge and holding on to archaic practices. Women are often symbolised as preservers of rituals and culture, and also the victims of patriarchal discourse. This research focuses on exploring the practice of Islam in part to deal with gender role-based factors, interpersonal relationships, and healing relationships by transforming identities and self-empowering individuals through divine intervention. This thesis demonstrates how women exercise multi-dimensional empowerment by carrying out and participating in religious rituals. The research examines such ceremonies as Ehson, Bibi Seshanba, and Mushkul Kushod, whereby women socialise, share daily problems, and seek conflict resolution. These practices and stories of women show how healers transform women’s oppression, their suffering, and vulnerability to authority, agency, and empowerment, by creating a safe space for peace-building relationships. In socio-traditional discourse these religious practitioners, through different ceremonial practices, maintain moral order and promote traditional gender values, whereby they maintain peace in the communities. The research aims to highlight the healing practices in Surkhandarya, which historically experienced diverse religious practices. The study seeks to demonstrate these women’s spiritual possession as knowledge, agency, and space to deal with social norms and economic instability. These practices show interesting and varied traditions of alternative and spiritual healing that have undoubtedly influenced the contemporary folk medicine in the region. With this research, I try to make visible women’s experiences in traditional-cultural discourse, where they reclaim their voices in a male-dominated society.