All posts tagged: Xinjiang

Imagining Re-Engineered Muslims in Northwest China

While perusing the news from Northwest China in mid-April 2017, I came across a story about a Uyghur official who refused to smoke cigarettes in front of other devout Uyghurs. The Communist Party leader was publicly shamed and demoted for his failure to remain resolute in his “commitment to secularization.” Smoking, the state declared, was a personal choice that must be protected.By this logic, an individual’s right to smoke is thus a fundamental form of freedom: freedom to consume the secular. Smoking, like secularism, is a manifestation of the norms of Chinese citizenship. Any attempt at limiting it, in favor of respecting religious practices, is symptomatic of a social malady. The story, published by the Associated Press on April 11, 2017, reminded me of my own experiences of smoking with Uyghur friends. It made me think of a time when I was smoking cigarettes with a Uyghur friend as we wandered the back streets of Kashgar. We were on the prowl for late-night bowls of hand-pulled noodles or laghman. As we walked down an alleyway …

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Introducing Living Otherwise

Changes are in store for the Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia thanks to a generous fellowship from the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington. Not only have we moved from Beige Wind to a new site called Living Otherwise and transformed it into magazine-style repository, but we are also developing some new exciting larger-scale projects that highlight the arts and changing cultural systems of the city of Ürümchi and Northwest China more broadly. Over the next year we will be bringing you more long-form essays, such as the recently published piece “Ms. Munirä’s Wedding Gifts,” as well as interactive mapping projects and virtual exhibitions of Xinjiang arts and politics. The first of these larger scale projects is a multilinear photo essay titled “Living Otherwise: Buddhist Photography on the New Silk Road.” The project tells the story of Tian Lin, a Han settler and former monk, who has developed a meditative photo practice among Uyghur squatters in the city of Ürümchi and through this become a major figure in Xinjiang arts scene. …

Ms. Munirä’s Wedding Gifts: Trolling Uyghur Elite Society

For those without access to YouTube, the film is also available here at Critical Commons. Co-written with Aynur Kadir, PhD Candidate, Simon Fraser University Back in April 2016 the daughter of a well-to-do Uyghur border official in Kashgar, a woman known now simply as Ms. Munirä, got married. Like many weddings of wealthy Uyghurs, it was an ostentatious affair. Since Uyghur weddings are often seen as the joining of two families, it is important that each family demonstrates their wealth and prestige. One of the key moments of this demonstration is when the bride wealth which is given to the bride’s family by the groom’s family is announced to the attendees of the wedding at a party that proceeds the wedding called a “big tea” (or chong chay). In many cases this is a low-key affair. But in some cases, as in Ms. Munirä’s case, it takes on the appearance of luxury product exhibition. In an extravaganza such as this, an announcer called a “box opener” (snaduq echish) proclaims to all in attendance what has …

The RISE Collaborative at the Seattle Asian Art Museum

Bringing New Vitality to Uyghur Performance On a Tuesday evening in early 2016, American and Uyghur dancers wheeled across the rough stone floor of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. They were moving to the rhythms and countermelodies of a Uyghur ecstatic tradition: the Dolan Muqam. Building slowly from an arrhythmic introduction, high and echoing around the room, gradually this form of traditional Uyghur music emerged into a full-formed twirling dance around a taut rhythm. The sound and tense rhythms that filled the room came from the voice and resonator guitar of a single man: the Uyghur rock star Perhat Khaliq. It was Perhat Khaliq’s first visit to the United States and after his longstanding friendship with Mukaddas Mijit, it was the first time the two had created a new work together. Of course the space was also filled by a sold-out crowd, people pressed close on carpets and chairs that surrounded the room. Uyghurs had come from all over the state. They came from Portland and Vancouver. They came to celebrate Uyghur music and dance. …