Empire-Building on China's Frontiers: Reclamation, Religion, and Rebellion, 1644-1911
4: Rhythms of Revolt: Religion, Ethnicity, and Rebellions in the Qing Empire, 1850-1873
Friday, March 25, 2022
1:30pm – 3:00pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 313C
American University, United States
In the wake of the Christianity-inspired Taiping Revolution (1850-1864), a series of Muslim uprisings occurred in three provinces of China’s Southwestern and Northwestern frontiers. Millions of Muslim and non-Muslim Chinese died in the insurgent civil wars. Why did Muslims mobilize against the Qing Empire at such an unprecedented level? I argue that this wave of Muslim rebellions was not the uniform outcome of structural strains or empire-wide ethno-religious confrontations but comprised disparate uprisings that emerged from distinct cleavages spanning several regions. Furthermore, the development and crystallization of these rebellions were unexpected results of local organizational actors’ iterative interactions with one another. As such, rebellious identities and actions are incrementally produced in response to the insurgent process itself rather than merely to pre-existing conditions. My work demonstrates that ethnic and religious identities are not only intricate but are also often rapidly reconfigured as the mobilizing bases for political contentions.