Public Selves, Private Selves, and Mirrored Selves: Muslim Central Asian Women’s Approaches to Life-Writing Restricted; Files Only

Abdugafurova, Donohon (Summer 2021)

Permanent URL:


This dissertation contextualizes Central Asian women’s approaches to life-writing in the Uzbek language. It employs several critical discourses with the aim of studying Muslim Central Asian women’s writing and their overall relationship with their milieu. One of the ways in which it does this is by identifying three major approaches to life narratives in the writings of Saida Zunnunova (d. 1977), Zarifa Saidnosirova (d. 1986), Kibriyo Qahhorova (d. 1996), and Zulfiya Isroilova’s (d. 1996). The first approach, the Direct Self, analyzes the narrator as the central protagonist of a life story in which childhood memories emerge. The second approach, Indirect/Relational Self, argues that through the act of life-writing Central Asian women placed themselves in the webs of familial and spousal relations as daughters, daughters-in-law, mothers, and wives. Although women writers were hesitant to place themselves at the center of their composition in the form of a sole autobiography, our understanding of Central Asian culture and Islamic history enable us to construct their Indirect Self from their writings through attitudes towards their filial and spousal responsibilities. Finally, the Social Self approach to life-writing analyzes Central Asian women’s writings as a particular engagement with the Soviet regime and society as women attempted to archive their experiences through literature. The complexities of literary production and consumption by the Soviet agenda reveal that women’s personal and autobiographical works act as criticisms and accolades to their times. Ultimately, this dissertation argues that investigating Central Asian women’s writings through autobiographical discourse reveals multiple facets of self-writings. As accounts of personal, social, and historical events, the analysis of Central Asian women’s writings exemplifies the works of life writings in the Central Asian context. Although this dissertation's subject is life-writing of Central Asian women, its implicit subjects are professional women under Soviet power and their negotiation with family and society. The findings of this research contribute to the scholarly debates of women’s writings in nonwestern contexts, and to ongoing scholarly conversations in women’s studies, women’s life-writing, Islamic Civilizations Studies, and Central Asian Studies.

Table of Contents


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS                                                  i-iii

Introduction                                                                                      1    

Biography and Autobiography                                              4

Self and Autobiography                                                        5

Definition of Terms and Methodology                                  9

Women’s Life-Writing                                                          12

           Research Questions                                                               16       

           Writing as Agency for Women                                             17

Outline of Chapters                                                              21

Chapter One: Situating Women’s Life-Writing in Uzbek Central Asian Literature                      

Forms of Life-Writing in Medieval and Early Modern

Uzbek Central Asian Literature                                             23

Jadid Discourse and The Women of Central Asia  46

Autobiographical Writing and Literary

Subjectivity in Soviet Times     60

Post-Soviet and Independence Period Life-Writing

in Uzbekistan                                                                        70                                                                  

Conclusion                                                                             76                                                                                                       


Chapter Two: The Direct Self: Self-Engagement in Writing


Introduction            78

Theoretical framework: life course theory     83

The “I” in the past                                                                  86

The “I” in the present      104

The “I” in the future                                                              125                                         

Conclusion         131

Chapter Three: The Indirect Self: Self-Expression Through Family and Marriage 

Introduction         135

The life course of traditional Uzbek women

and family responsibilities                                                     136

Life course and family structure in narratives  144

Husband’s biography versus wife’s autobiography 151

Fathers in the eyes of their daughters                                    160

Dimensions of motherhood                                                    177

Expressing self-sacrifice                                                        180

Conclusion                                                                             185


Chapter Four: Social Self: Individual and Society 

Introduction         188

Soviet life ethics         201

Beyond the diary                                                                   221

Conclusion                                                                             234


Conclusion 236                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

About this Dissertation

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified Preview image embargoed

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files