In the last decade, the Chinese Communist Party has utilized museums as important ideological spaces, evidenced by the pace they are being built, approximately a museum a day over the period. This paper will ‘read’ a single museum, the Kashgar Urban Planning Museum, and analyze the museum as a lens to think about the role of Uighurs and history in contemporary China.
The museum was built in 2011. Though this museum is called an urban planning museum, it in fact functions both as a history museum narrating the city’s past and a fantasy about the city’s future. Interestingly, both the past and the future are represented as lackingUighurs and Islam. The historical portion of the museum narrates the story of the city’s history with only glancing mentions of Kashgaris. Instead, the bulk of the history section discusses ethnically “Chinese” figures dispatched by the imperial government to the city.
Thus, Uighurs are erased from their own history. They are replaced by marginal figures in the history of Kashgar, whose role the narrative plays up as a way to demonstrate that the Imperial Chinese state has long controlled the region. Thus, demonstrating ethnic Chinese control over the city becomes a strategy for the museum narrative to defend the legitimacy of contemporary CCP rule over the city. Built several years before the mass reeducation campaign began, the museum uses narrative to prepare the way for the program of cultural genocide.
Paper Presenter: Lee Moore – University of Oregon
Paper Presenter: Emily Matson – University of Virginia
Paper Presenter: Susan Chang – National University of Singapore