Kashgar Revisited

Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Death of Ambassador Gunnar Jarring

Workshop organized by the Asian Dynamics Initiative, University of Copenhagen
10-12 May 2012


Ildikó Bellér-Hann, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen
Jun Sugawara, Research Fellow, ILCAA, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
Birgit Schlyter, Professor, Stockholm University and Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul

Although Uyghurs have been under the political control of the Chinese centre for several centuries, linguistically and culturally they are closely related to those Turkic speaking Central Asians who for two decades have been the titular groups of their independent nation states. Islam binds them to the global Muslim community. Entangled in multiple ties of connectedness, Uyghurs face new challenges posed by Chinese policies but also by international events and global trends. While pan-Turkism or radical Islamism hold no attraction to the majority of Uyghurs, they tend to respond to repressive religious and cultural policies as well as to Beijing's discriminatory development strategies with a strengthening of ethnic awareness. Difference vis-à-vis the Han is cultivated through appealing to tradition, thus everyday and ritual expressions of cultural identity become inextricably entangled with the political. History, literature and language all become arenas of contestation which, however, due to strict censorship, often assumes the form of ‘hidden transcripts'. How do Uyghurs respond to and participate in shaping new transnational trends and how do they reproduce and perpetuate their cultural traditions in the face of increasing threat? How can new historical research become a potential resource for explaining contemporary developments and expressing nationalist sentiments? Which direction should research on Xinjiang and the Uyghur take in the future?