Ecology of Time: Calendar of the Human Body in the Pamir Mountains

In: Journal of Persianate Studies
Umed Bulbulshoev University of Central Asia

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Karim-Aly Kassam Cornell University

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Morgan Ruelle Cornell University

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Villagers in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan integrated the human body into the seasons and rhythms of their ecological relations to generate “calendars of the human body.” These calendars illustrate that culture does not exist outside of its ecological foundation (i.e. nature), but is firmly situated within it. Farmers undertook agro-pastoral and hunting activities using their own bodies not only for labor, but as a measure of the changing tempo of the seasons. Their bodies both interacted with life on the land and acted as organic clocks to mark the passage of time. While these calendars are no longer widely used, memory of their usage survives, and words from the calendars marking specific ecological events in local languages are still in use. This paper (1) investigates the historical presence and human ecological significance of a calendar of the human body; (2) illustrates the diversity of these calendars based on the specific context of their use from valley to valley in the region; (3) demonstrates the complex connectivity of the users (agro-pastoralists) within their habitat; and, (4) explores the efficacy of this calendar in developing anticipatory capacity among villagers in order to reduce anxiety associated with climate change. The calendar of the human body not only measures time, but gives it meaning.

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