CEAS COLLOQUIUM, AUTUMN 2011-12
Dru C. Gladney Professor of Anthropology, Pomona College
This talk examines the role of the internet 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 the internet 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 the internet and social networking has played in shaping a transnational Uyghur community that lays claim to a land and history that is no longer its own.
Free and open to the public.