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Oasis Identities: Uyghur Nationalism Along China's Silk Road
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Oasis Identities: Uyghur Nationalism Along China's Silk Road (Paperback)

by Justin Rudelson (Author), Justin Ben-Adam (Author)

3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages

  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (February 1997)

  • Language: English

  • ISBN-10: 0231107870

  • ISBN-13: 978-0231107877

  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 15 x 1.3 cm

  • Shipping Weight: 318 g

  • Average Customer Review:

    3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

  • Amazon.ca Sales Rank: #851,216 in Books (See Bestsellers in Books)



Product Description

Rudelson has done a wonderful job of providing an overview of the issues that confront Uyghur intellectuals over the meaning and use of history.

Product Description
This text explores the history, culture, politics and geography of the oasis communities of China's far northwestern province, Xinjiang, seeking to shed light on the competing ideas, symbols and allegiances that make up the diverging identities of the Uyghurs - the region's Turkic Muslim inhabitants. Drawing upon fieldwork in the Xinjiang oasis of Turpan, the book assesses the factors that undermine the creation of a pan-Uyghur identity. It explains the historical and contemporary impact of such factors as the geography of the region; the fragmented visions and cross-cutting allegiances of intellectuals, peasants, and merchants; and the inability of the Uyghur elite who spearhead the nationalist movement to transcend their own provincialism, thereby endendering rival oasis identities and suberting ethnic unity.

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Average Customer Review

3.8 out of 5 stars (4 customer reviews)





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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
2.0 out of 5 stars Full Picture Doesn't Come by Visiting Two Uyghur Cities., Sep 2 1999
By A Customer
I am a Uyghur. My comment is: this is not a good book on Uyghurs. I haven't found it too helpful to really understand Uyghur nationalism and the Uyghur oasis identity in general.

Rudelson's interpretation of Uyghur history and the roots of Uyghur nationalism are very shallow. I can say this book fails to give the reader a clear picture who the true Uyghur people are and why they are fighting against the Chinese government.

Rudelson has translated the famous Uyghur nationalistic poems such as "Oyghan" by Abduhaliq Uyghuri, and "Iz" by Abdureyim Otkur. However, he did not really understand the hidden meaning in these poems. His interpretation of these poems is quite on the opposite to the original meaning contained in these great poems. There is also a lot of negative elements in his book. But the most distasteful one, I believe, is he associated Uyghurs with Nazi ideology. He identified Uyghurs as more pro-Hitler without any proof. Historically, Uyghur haven't had any direct contact with the Jews.

The solutions he has offered to the current Uyghur problem are: 1. Uyghurs will be crushed if they are against the Chinese state; 2. So, Uyghurs should take up their historic role of middle-men or intermediaries in Central Asia by cooperating with the Chinese state. His solutions sound to me: 1. Shut up grumbling about your sufferings under the Chinese rule. It is not a big deal. Better forget it since you can't do anything about it; 2. Be happy as a second-class citizen in China. You can't be anything more than that. Serve your Chinese master and benifit his business with all your heart.

His analysis of contemporary Uyghur society is quite obscure. He said, Uyghurs have oasis identities such as Urumchilik, Kashgarlik, Turpanlik, and Hotanlik etc. which, in my opinion, is kind of true, though I have never heard of the word "oasis identity" before reading this book. He claims that Uyghurs are more into these identities than being Uyghur. Some people put their oasis identities above the identity of being Uyghur. This, from my point of view, is basically fabrication. Even though some religious Uyghurs may unconsciously mix Uyghur=Muslim and Muslim=Uyghur identities . But they never and ever mix Kargharlik, Turpanlik...with the very identity of their nation-Uyghur.

The only thing I kind of approve in his book is his explanation of the intricate relationship between Uyghur intellectuals and pesants. He said, Uyghur intellectuals are very secular and Uyghur peasants are very religious. Uyghur intellectuals have failed to relate their ideas and ideologies to the Uyghur peasantry in most cases. Therefore, there is a big gap remaining in-between. There is nothing unique to relate them and unite them together for now. I believe this is crucially important for the Uyghurs to find something to relate.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for reference, and perfect to take along as well, Oct 5 2000
By A Customer
I was inspired to write this review after reading previous reviews and considering them incomplete. As a foreigner who lives in Beijing and travels to XJ as often as possible, I found this book incredibly helpful. I have taken it with me a few times to XJ, and re-read portions as tweaked by conversations and observations of my own. It explains many things that confused me, such as attitudes and prejudices that exist in the Uighurs that I know, and illuminates possible reasons for their actions and comments. Most Uighurs do not have the luxury of considering why they believe certain things, or the time to sift through their upbringing to track down an idea to its source. Mr. Rudelson attempts this, and does an admirable job. I am envious that he had time and opportunity to live with the Uighurs in Turpan, and learnt the language well enough to socialise.

Without wanting to get bogged down in specific details that are not the focus of the book, I note that I too have been surprised when Uighurs voiced appreciation for Hitler, usually in the form of wry commentary when watching films set in WWII. It's not a question of associating Uighurs with Nazi ideology, but rather (as Mr. Rudelson says) a variation of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' logic. The author himself points out that these sentiments are unlikely to be anti-Jewish, just anti-Han Chinese.

It is key to remember that Mr. Rudelson did field research for social anthropology. His book, while touching on the political issues that always accompany a modern book on this area of the world, is not meant to offer solutions or even examine these complex issues in detail. It is an attempt to analyse and draw out how Uighurs view themselves from a local perspective and in the larger context of Chinese nationality. The fact that Mr. Rudelson's research topic seems so basic to readers familiar with XJ and the Uighurs shows how much more research is necessary for even a reasonably accurate portrait.

The approach is academic, and as such, the author considers multiple viewpoints and interpretations, which is key to deconstructing complex issues. There are no absolute answers offered, nor can there be, as anthropologists work with people, not mathematical formulas. The evidence, in the form of answers from interviews with Uighurs, is presented, and then a possible theory is developed. It is clear that Mr. Rudelson has unique and deep sympathy with Uighurs, but he manages quite well to maintain his perspective without allowing his feelings to cloud either his judgement or the issues. Nor does the discussion become overly academic -- this book is great for an educated but non-specialised reader.

It would be considerably more difficult to do this research today, not least because of "fundamentalist" Islamic ideas creeping in via trade and contact with Pakistan, Afghanistan and the 'stans [Kazak / Kyrgyz & Uzbek Ferghana Valley]. The attempts of other Central Asian intellectuals to research identity building are not debated or discussed for appropriateness, and thus not allowed to compete and fail on their own in the marketplace of ideas. Anything that is tarred with charges of "fundamentalism", which covers just about anything related to Islam in the eyes of the government, is thus starved of the oxygen of public debate. Also, even if something is unrelated to Islam, controls on speech, music and poetry content, and public opinion that are more strict than other Chinese provinces ensure that ideas are restricted much more so than 10 years ago.

Mr. Rudelson was the first to attempt this type of research, and due to political considerations, there have been no foreigners allowed back since. This book is ground-breaking simply for that reason alone, but happily it goes beyond that in terms of applicability and usefulness to the China watcher and traveler alike. I cannot recommend it strongly enough for anyone who is interested in this fascinatingly complex border area between Central Asia and China.

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone interested in China, Jun 7 2006


William P. Jacobs (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews

Anyone that has spent any time in China is well aware of the Uyghurs. Their light skin, mustaches and height cause any foreigner to turn their head on the streets of Beijing or Shanghai. Who are they? Rudelson answers this question well.

"Free Tibet" stickers can be found on the back of cars all over the US. Why no "Free East Turkistan"?

The Uyghurs are the most persecuted people in China, yet few know of their plight. Unlike the Tibetans with a more unified Buddhist-centered culture, the Uyghurs are incredibly diverse. Are the Uyghurs a pan-Chinese minority? Are they Muslim seperatists? Are they non-nomadic city-focused Turkic-speaking secular nationalists? Do the Uyghurs even know?

Rudelson starts us on our complicated journey down the Silk Road.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This book is very informative about Uighur lives in Xinjiang
As a Han Chinese, I have always been very curious of the Uighur lives in Xinjiang. I have never had a chance to visit the Oasis mentioned in the book. Read more

Published on Oct 26 1999 by JAMES CHIEN


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