"Reformation" Beyond the Gate: State Power and the Making of Bare Life in the Xinjiang Uyghur Region
3: Toward a Totalitarian Politics of Land In Kashgar
Saturday, March 26, 2022
10:30am – 12:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
Lauren F. Restrepo
Bryn Mawr College, United States
We tend to think of spaciocide, a concept coined to describe violence against cities in Palestine and later applied to Iraq, as something that leaves rubble in its wake. It is uncreative destruction: death by bulldozer. By contrast, Kashgar’s officially designated ‘Ancient City’ is what urban space would look like if it were embalmed alive and offered up as a backdrop to new-media influencers. This paper explores the meticulous physical planning and design practices of the local state in Kashgar, a central place in the Uyghur cultural imaginary, as the pre-CCP city is painstakingly rendered the territorial equivalent of bare life: land stripped of its symbolic power as a homeland while remaining the space in which (some) indigenous biological life exists, though primarily for the tourist gaze. At the same time, the planning, funding, and construction of ‘new’ Kashgar at both the metropolitan and regional levels disempowers not only Turkic residents, but also those territorial units of the government in which Turkic and other local bureaucrats have authority. The result is a totalitarian politics of land, as control of territory is re-centralized and space is rendered profitable by either commodifying the Uyghur population or erasing it completely.