All posts tagged: Masculinity

The Fog of Drugs

Although the use of hashish has been a part of the Uyghur pharmacopoeia for centuries, drugs appear to have become a widespread problem for Uyghurs only in the early 1990s. It was only then that young men in their twenties began dying of overdoses and needle-borne disease. As Ilham Tohti mentioned in 2011, in the intervening decades drugs along with theft, pickpocketing, trafficking and prostitution “have gotten so bad that our entire ethnic group is suddenly perceived as a crime-prone community.” These are issues which Uyghurs discuss among themselves and feel embarrassed about when they are raised among outsiders. Rumors are a major part of this discussion. Many people point out that the drugs come from the Golden Triangle and tell tales about the way they are trafficked by Hui middleman. They suggest that there is a general conspiracy operating among non-Uyghurs—with the tacit support of the government—to poison young Uyghur men and thus curtail their futures. These stories are supported by popular media. A famous Uyghur writer, Jalalidin Behram, vividly describes the life paths …

Möminjan, Turkish Pop, and Islamic Devotion

Beginning with the very first cassette tape he released in 1999, Möminjan has been popular with young people. One of the main ways people experience music in the city is in nightclubs where the music envelopes the tight confines of a room and the pageantry of moving to the beat with friends and strangers comes to life. Uyghurs can dance. And Möminjan’s songs were eminently danceable. Not only is his voice remarkable similar to his uncle Abdulla, but Möminjan is a suave performer. He’s likeable. Even in his early days when he was still studying archaeology at Xinjiang University, his fellow classmates elected him president of the student club of his institute. Möminjan’s path as a musician has diverged from other performers in interesting ways. Unlike other young singers who made it big, he has not tried to cross over to a popular Chinese audience. He doesn’t even sing Chinese translations of traditional or “red” folk songs. Instead, beginning in 2003 he began to sing in the Uzbek and Turkish style. Möminjan’s goal in doing …

53180d21dfc7e

Tragic Comedy and Uyghur Women

The sketch comedy that I outlined in earlier writing ends with a return to proper gender norms: a husband taking responsibility for his wife and children. But before this can take place, Abdukerim’s character is confronted with the wide range of his sins and their social effects. Around the 12-minute mark his partner reminds him that before he “had a big wife, a middle wife, a little wife, old wife, young wife. You had so many wives at a time, that… when you met new girls you forgot about the other ones. And you even had a role in sending them to the streets. You didn’t pay attention to the grieving of your wife and children” (12:24). He continues, “Because of people like you, now people have the perception that all jade-sellers are bad (yaman or ‘immoral behavior’). Don’t do that, brother. Let us live with our faces and chests up (with dignity and honor). We need to have face again.” 1. Structural Violence and Uyghur Women Abdukerim is drawing the attention of his audience to the …

Gendered Futures, “Mother Tongue,” and Berna the Uyghur city girl

(Part 2 of 2)   I have written previously about the way endearing child stars such as the seven-year old Berna are being mobilized as a method of securing the future of Uyghur ways of knowing and speaking. Yet Uyghur “mother tongue fever” has a long legacy. The famous Uyghur poem Ana Til or “Mother Tongue” was composed by the poet Haji Qutluq Shewqi in the mid-nineteenth century when a love of Uyghur was directed in opposition to the dominance of Persian and Arabic in Uyghur education. While the vectors of linguistic force have found new centers of gravity in the past few decades, the sentiment carried forward by that old poem resonates more strongly than ever in Uyghur popular culture. Yet as I will explain below despite the continuity of these feelings, there are also some important differences from these desires of the past. Despite, and because of, their almost bizarre appeal, young performers like Berna and her promoters are challenging staid masculine notions of what it means to be Uyghur and what the …