"Reformation" Beyond the Gate: State Power and the Making of Bare Life in the Xinjiang Uyghur Region
2: Modernity and Dispossession: Rise and Fall of the Uyghur Intellectual Elites
Saturday, March 26, 2022
10:30am – 12:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
The University of British Columbia, Canada
By 2020, the Uyghur Human Rights Project had identified more than 400 Uyghur elites who have disappeared or been imprisoned, with many accused of separatism or religious extremism. Ironically, many studied and worked within the CCP and contributed to the state’s narratives of multiculturalism and modernisation with their creative endeavours. In this paper, I look at the lives and works of authors who specialize in cultural, ethnographic, and travel writing, examining how they articulate complex narratives of modernization, secularism, globalization, and economic development. I find that these groups actively called for a very particular version of modernization and critiqued commoners as backwards and superstitious, in line with the larger state narrative. Under intense state scrutiny, they worked to uphold and protect aspects of Uyghur heritage while also advocating for a modernized Uyghur society - inadvertently mimicking the desires of the state to secularize the Uyghur homeland and look to the West as an example of modernity. However, the state campaigns against these elites indicate a clear shift in the ethnic policies from multiculturalism to a more unified Chinese identity that is now taking place through active structural violence andcolonial dispossession, as well as a state-sponsored discourse intended to racialize and criminalize the Uyghur nation as a whole.