Bleeding Babies in Badakhshan

Abstract

The bleeding of infants via the skin (pilé) and the roof of the mouth (qüm) is practiced in Badakhshan, the easternmost province of Tajikistan. Like folk practices elsewhere, pilé and qüm exist at the interstices of modern society and reflect a complex religious, historical, and social response to poverty, marginality, and the global processes associated with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In this article, I attempt to move beyond an ethnomedical analysis by examining these bloodletting practices in the context of their contemporary meaning, as a moral response to suffering and to the social changes that have taken place in the post-Soviet period.