Muslims on the Edge of China
Religious Knowledge and Authority Amongst the Uyghurs of Xinjiang
By Edmund Waite
Routledge – 2013 – 208 pages
Series: Royal Asiatic Society Books
The vast desert region dividing China from Central Asia, now known officially as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), has gained considerable international profile in recent years as an area that combines geo-political and economic significance with ethnic and religious sensitivity. The focus on Xinjiang’s key role as a “crossroads of trade” following the opening up of borders with neighbouring states has been accompanied by growing interest in continued ethnic unrest on the part of the Muslim Turkic-speaking Uyghurs. In recent years, Chinese government authorities have sought to depict Uyghur separatist activity as being linked to “illegal religious activities” and religious extremism and have accelerated efforts to bring religious activity under the auspices of state control. In the post-9/11 context, the Chinese authorities have explicitly linked their struggle against Uyghur separatism to the global “war on terror”, prompting accusations that China is deliberately using the current international climate to justify a clampdown on civil and religious liberties.
This book fills a gap in the literature by offering a detailed understanding of how Islam is enacted on the ground. Based on long-term anthropological fieldwork, the author explores the interplay between state policies and the enactment of religion at the local level. The book thus analyses the complex connection between state efforts to co-opt, supervise and repress certain modes of religion and the emergence of new religious ideologies seeking to establish more “orthodox” forms of religious conduct, whose priorities sometimes correspond but more usually conflict with this wider state agenda. The book furthers the readers’ knowledge of the religion in the region. It will be of interest to scholars of Chinese and Islamic studies as well as to political scientists.
Introduction 1. Religious Knowledge and Authority amongst the Uyghurs in a Historical Context 2. Islam in Kashgar: Work-units, Neighbourhoods and the Political Determinants of Religious Behaviour 3. Religion in the Rural Areas: The Mosque Community and Key Religious Rituals 4. Life-cycle Rituals and Support for the Deceased 5. Instrumental Forms of Religion: Ritual Good Deeds and Shamanism 6. Sufi Leaders, Shrines and the Shaping of Uyghur Ethnic Identities. Conclusion
Edmund Waite received his PhD in Social Anthropology from Cambridge University. He currently teaches in the Department of Lifelong Education and International Development at the Institute of Education, University of London, UK.