Book Review: Douglas Northrop. Veiled Empire : Gender & Power in Stalinist Central Asia. Cornell University Press 2004
journal contributionposted on 01.01.2005, 00:00 by Marianne Kamp
Central to Douglas Northrop's archivally based study of the Soviet attempt to unveil Uzbek women is the argument that the Soviet Union was a colonial empire, one where Bolsheviks tried to transform daily cultural practices and gender relations against the wishes of most Uzbeks, who responded as colonial subjects by using weapons of the weak. Northrop's use of previously unavailable Communist Party documents allows an exploration of the Party's arguments for and against unveiling, and describes the Party's surprise at the vehemence and violence of anti-unveiling resistance in Uzbekistan. Starting with the 1927 Communist Party initiation of the Hujum—or campaign against veiling in Soviet Uzbekistan—this work's exclusive focus on the unveiling campaign allows Northrop to reveal that resistance to unveiling and other laws concerning "liberation" continued into the 1950s, and to examine the ways that intrusion into family life and cultural practices served the Party as a tool for defining loyalty during the Stalinist period. Northrop far exceeds Gregory Massell's The Surrogate Proletariat: Moslem Women and Revolutionary Strategies in Soviet Central Asia, 1919–1929 (1974) in exploring Party arguments over policies toward Central Asia.