All posts tagged: Xinjiang

‘Anticolonial friendships’: How should anthropologists learn from Uyghurs in contemporary China?

When I was first starting to research Xinjiang as a graduate student in the late 2000s, I spent a few weeks with a Taiwanese-American anthropologist at Berkeley named Cindy Huang, who was just finishing her doctorate. Cindy, whose parents were born in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province and who still has family there, had lived in Xinjiang for over a year just before the mass violence of 2009. In my conversations with her, and in her dissertation, she described the way Uyghur women welcomed her into their world as a friend and sister. After a year of building a relationship with her, her two closest Uyghur friends, Ayshe and Nurgul, cooked a special dinner for her. She wrote: For more than a year, Ayshe has been searching for a suitable Uyghur name for me. She finally settles on Zuhre, explaining that it is a name with Arabic origins, meaning bright, beautiful star. She shaves down a chopstick, dips it in a jar of ink and writes my new name in elegant script. We feast on rice and stir-fried …

‘Nikah’: An astonishing portrait of Uyghur life on the edge of erasure

Mukaddas Mijit and Bastien Ehouzan’s Nikah is extraordinary. It is a quiet film, a portrait of a young Uyghur woman and her family living in a Uyghur world in the late 2010s. It is astonishing in its restraint, in the way it remains true to a ground-level view of what it looked and felt like to be on the verge of internment. Nikah is a portrait of the impossible becoming reality. The story on the surface is a simple one. Two daughters in their twenties, Dilber and Rena, are caught between their own ambitions — careers, travel, love — and community pressures to follow gendered norms dictating what young women should do, whom they should get married to, and the life path of a wife and mother. After the younger sister, Rena, is married to a young man in the community, the pressure builds on the older sister, Dilber, to marry as well — or be lost to old age or, more ominously, as whispers imply, be married off to a Han man. In 2017, the Chinese state criminalized …

Now Is the Moment for Global Solidarity with China’s Ethnic Minorities

President Xi Jinping wants to be leader for life, but brave Chinese citizens continue to speak out against the increasingly authoritarian rule. We must stand with them. DEENA GUZDER October 6, 2022 President Xi Jinping is on the verge of securing an unprecedented third term as the leader of the world’s most populous country, the People’s Republic of China. On October 16th, the Communist Party congress will declare Jinping as China’s ruler for an additional five years. Such congresses typically bring in a new batch of rulers but Xi, who is also head of state and leader of the military, amended the party constitution in 2018 to remove all term limits on the presidency, effectively making him China’s self-appointed forever-leader. Under Xi’s leadership of China since 2013, there have been a host of human rights violations that will only likely worsen in the next half decade unless confronted by human rights activists globally. Professor Darren Byler of Simon Fraser University said, “Over the course of his term in power, Xi Jinping has radically expanded the power of …

Between Islamophobia and homophobia: Life as an LGBTQ Uyghur in China

I had a friend who was a medical doctor. He was gay and he was Uyghur, like me. We knew he was HIV positive about a year ago, but he never took any antiviral drugs because he didn’t want his family to find out. Last month, very suddenly he got sick and died just like that — complications from AIDS. His family didn’t even know he was sick, so it was very sudden for them. It’s really sad. There are a lot of young boys, 17 or 18, on Blued. I don’t think any of them understand or know to use protection, and there are a lot of male prostitutes that don’t use protection either. Erkin told me this story one day when I was living in Xinjiang. The prevalence of HIV among gay men in China was the main reason he wanted to talk to me. “Erkin” is a common male Uyghur name that means “Freedom,” and is a pseudonym. When we spoke, it was 2017 and I was living in Xinjiang. He had …