Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Dru C. Gladney -- A Jasmine Spring in Beijing? The Uyghur Challenge to China and the Xinjiang 13

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

5 p.m. – 6 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

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"A Jasmine Spring in Beijing? The Uyghur Challenge to China and the Xinjiang 13," with Dru C. Gladney, Professor of Anthropology, Pomona College.

This talk examines the role of the internet and social media in shaping and expanding the recent events in the Middle East and their relevance for China. Some have suggested that China has already experienced a “twitter revolution” in Xinjiang as early as 2009. The July 5, 2009 riots in Urumqi were attributed by the Chinese state to “outside forces,” yet very few of the issues raised by the protestors invoked demands extending beyond China’s borders. While the state media attributed the Uyghur protests to radical Islam and separatism, none of the protestors called for jihad or an independent “Eastern Turkestan.” Twitter and other social media played an important role in publicizing the plight of Uyghur workers in southern China who had been mistreated, leading to an uprising in Urumqi city, over 3000 miles away. Internationally, the Uyghur diaspora helped to call global attention to an event that Chinese media initially denied, then attempted to shape through carefully edited reporting and selective coverage. Although the internet occupies a deterritorialized and disembodied space, claims and counterclaims in these competing narratives debated historical and contemporary claims to land and territory, as well as the bodies that appropriately or inappropriately belonged to that space. Traditional approaches to identity conflicts and nationalism have insufficiently theorized the role social media plays in helping to construct translocal identities rooted in ethnic spaces and national boundaries. In addition, few have examined the increasing co-dependency between China and the Middle East in their rising energy and security concerns. This talk will seek to explore the effects of the Arab Spring on China and the role social networking has played in shaping a transnational diasporic community with strong ties to the Middle East that lays claim to a land and history that is no longer its own.The challenges faced by recent scholars in studying China’s Uyghur problem, and the attempt by China to control access to knowledge of the region by banning a group of experts now known as the “Xinjiang 13” will be examined.

Location: McKinney Conference Room, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street.