Print and Power in the Communist Borderlands: The Rise of Uyghur National Culture
Freeman, Joshua L.
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CitationFreeman, Joshua L. 2019. Print and Power in the Communist Borderlands: The Rise of Uyghur National Culture. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation demonstrates that socialist cultural policies, implemented in Chinese and Soviet Central Asia in the middle decades of the twentieth century, enabled Turkic Muslim intellectuals in the small Sino-Soviet frontier community of Ili to transform their local culture into the new Uyghur national culture. The transborder Uyghur community, divided for much of the century between history’s two largest socialist states, provides a unique opportunity for mapping out a dynamic replicated in many areas of socialist Eurasia. Bringing Uyghur-language sources across multiple genres—archival documents, poetry, film, memoirs—into conversation with Chinese and Russian materials, this study explores how writers and intellectuals from Ili, a community long regarded by other Central Asians as a cultural periphery, mobilized socialist states’ emphasis on native-language mass printing in order to radically redefine cultural capital in the newly demarcated Uyghur nation, and to set the course for this nation’s relationship with China, another nation then in the process of redefinition.
Ili’s rise was closely linked to its status as a transborder community, with Russian, socialist, and secular influences making earlier and deeper inroads in Ili than elsewhere in Xinjiang. As a result, when quasi-socialist, Soviet-aligned administrations were set up in Xinjiang in the 1930s and 1940s, Ili intellectuals held highly influential positions and often monopolized the new state-run Uyghur-language printing presses. By the time the Chinese Communist Party assumed power in the province in 1949, the Ili network offered the party a unique talent pool of Uyghur intellectuals versed in socialist public culture and administration. Over the course of the 1950s, as they helped the party promote its ideology and policies in the Uyghur community, Ili intellectuals formed patronage networks with Han party bureaucrats and quickly came to dominate Xinjiang’s state bureaucracy. Tapping the resources of nationalism and popular Islam, Ili writers and intellectuals embraced the socialist agenda of native-language print culture and universal state schooling in order to shape the nascent Uyghur mass culture in Ili’s image. So effective were their efforts that even after the Ili network lost its preeminent bureaucratic status in subsequent decades, the culture and identity it had molded remained standard throughout the Uyghur nation. Through a detailed examination of the formation and persistence of this Ili-inflected Uyghur culture, this study argues that the emergence of mass print under conditions of socialism can enable marginalized groups to permanently rewrite national cultural hierarchies.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029533
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