Contested mourning

Central Asian funerary practices in local and global Islam

  • Jeanine Elif Dağyeli
Keywords: Central Asia, commemoration ceremonies, lamentation, conceptualization of life and death, costs of funerals, contested practice, scripturalist Islam


Death-related conceptualizations and practices display local notions of religion, gender, morality and identity. Perceptions of a mutual influence of the living and the dead are prevalent throughout Central Asia; the entanglement of both worlds puts the well-being of people into the hands of benevolent ancestors and vice versa. Funerary and commemoration rites maintain a complaisant
relationship between the ancestors and their living progeny. Ancestors keep an important role in the social fabric of their family whose moral standing depends on honouring the deceased and paying them respect. In many funerary rituals, parallels of birth and death are invoked, attesting to conceptions of a circle of life and death. In Uzbekistan and neighbouring countries during the post-independence years, conspicuous consumption on ritual occasions and the large-scale performance of formerly small, family ceremonies have become powerful markers of social standing.