2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 223

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Session 223: Individual Papers: Ethnic Frontiers

Chair: Margaret Maurer-Fazio, Bates College, USA

The Impact of Global English in Xinjiang, China: Linguistic Capital and Identity Negotiation among the Han and Ethnic Minority Students
Ge Jian, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

This paper will present preliminary findings from my 18 months of dissertation fieldwork in four cities in Xinjiang (Urumiq, Kashgar, Aksu and Yining), China. The dissertation research investigates the power dynamics between the international lingua franca English, the national dominant language Mandarin Chinese and the local ethnic minority language Uyghur (a Turkic language) in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern China, a geopolitically contested area at the crossroads of Eurasia. This research explores two set of questions: 1)How do ethnicity, regional difference, class and gender factor into the uneven and unequal processes of linguistic capital acquisition among the ethnic minority and Han young people in Xinjiang, China? 2) What existing ideologies and identities does the English language disrupt? How do Han and ethnic minority groups negotiate their linguistic and cultural identities during the acquisition of English? In this conference paper I will focus on explaining the paradoxical phenomenon that although the majority of the Turkic-speaking college students did not start their English education until college, they do better in spoken English both locally and nationally than their Han counterparts who probably have learned English for more than ten years. The paper will use fresh ethnographic data from the fieldwork, which is to be completed by the end of February 2012, right before the AAS conference, to answer the abovementioned research questions.

Water Politics and Ethnic Relations: A Case Study of the Management of Water Resources and the Preservation of Water Rights in Contemporary Indigenous Society, Taiwan
Ching-hsiu Lin, Academia Sinica, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Based on anthropological study of water politics in Bunun society, an Austronesian speaking group, from 2010 onwards, this paper looks at how the Bunun use their knowledge, social organization, customs and contemporary laws of Taiwan to overcome conflicts over the water rights between themselves and Taiwanese residents in their living area. In Taiwan, Austronesian people are an ethnic minority, the so-called ‘indigenous people’. The Bunun live in the mountains and do not have sufficient and stable irrigation and water system for agriculture and portable water. Owing to environmental and climate change and economic development, the lack of water resource has become more of a crucial issue for the Bunun than before. However, there are many Taiwanese residents, who occupy about a half of population, that live in the Bunun’s living area. In this situation, contesting over the water right between indigenous people and Taiwanese people has become increasingly critical. Hence, issues of water rights involve complicated ethnic interrelations concerning local politics, and also form a triangle relationship among the state, the Bunun, and Taiwanese residents. In this paper, I firstly reflect on the Bunun’s ways of water resources management in relations to economic and environmental development. Secondly, I examine the role of the Bunun’s indigenous knowledge and customs engaged in the process of claiming and preserving water rights. Finally, I reflect on a dynamic process in which the Bunun redefine a geographical and ethnic boundary with the others and reshape the relationship between them and the state when they deal with water politics in contemporary society.

'Roads and railways in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: Instruments of economic transformation and territorial delineation
Agnieszka Joniak-Luthi, University of Bern, Switzerland

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China’s northwest borders seven countries, is sparsely populated, rich in natural resources and inhabited by a multi-ethnic population (Uyghurs, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, among others) whose political loyalties are strongly divided. In order to maintain and improve its spatial control over the region, the Chinese state has adopted a number of territorial control strategies. The development of transportation infrastructure (roads, railways and airways) is one of these strategies and has been intensively pursued in Xinjiang during the last decade. In this paper, I argue that transportation infrastructure is fundamental to the processes of delineation of state territory and integration of border regions with the rest of the country. Roads and railways open areas to migration and the development of industry, make the extraction of resources possible, facilitate movements of the army and also generally increase the control over the local population by establishing access. Moreover, developments in transportation infrastructure bring about immense social change for the local population which finds itself on a receiving end of a massive force. This paper explores the development of transportation network from three perspectives: firstly, its role as a strategy to increase spatial control of the Chinese state in Xinjiang; secondly, as a factor facilitating economic development and third, as a trigger of rapid social change. The paper is based on data collected during a long-term fieldwork conducted in the city of Aksu in southern Xinjiang in 2011.

From Bazaar to Buxingjie (Pedestrian shopping street): Characteristics of Chinese Urban Space and its Manifestation in the Uyghur Autonomous Region Xinjiang
Madlen Kobi, Independent Scholar, Switzerland

Urban development in the border region of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region can be seen as a manifestation of Chinese territorial control. Cities in Xinjiang, a region traditionally inhabited by a large Uyghur population, faced a tremendous spatial, economic, social and cultural transformation in the last decades: On the one hand, urban space undergoes a fast material transformation. Old town districts are torn down to give way to modern skyscrapers and residential compounds. On the other hand, these material changes are accompanied by a social transformation due to immigration from other parts of China. Decisions concerning the material urban environment, e.g. construction of new residential zones and infrastructure, are controlled by the central as well as local governments, Han-dominated Communist Party organs, and construction companies from all over the country. This means that urban spaces in Xinjiang today are in the great majority shaped by the Han, despite that Xinjiang is nominally a Uyghur Autonomous Region. This fact leads to the tendency that the needs of other ethnic groups are given less consideration, e.g. in the way public space is formed, new cities or city neighbourhoods are constructed. Based on ethnographic fieldwork data collected in Southern Xinjiang, this paper focuses on the characteristics of Chinese urban space introduced to this region. The main objective is to reveal similarities and differences to cities in Eastern China and to highlight the impacts of this material and social changes on the traditional Uyghur urban space.

Ethnic Intermarriage in Urban China: No Selectivity of Socioeconomic Status Involved
Wei Xing, University of Winnipeg, Canada

Ethnic intermarriage in urban China: No selectivity of socioeconomic status involved Wei Xing (PhD, Toronto) University of Winnipeg, Canada Ethnic intermarriage is widely accepted as an index of ethnic assimilation in pluralist societies because intermarriage, through its family life and offspring, blends two norms, economic resources, social networks and identities and spells out the openness of ethnic boundaries from both sides. The socioeconomic status selectivity of ethnic intermarriage intends to display a crucial facet of the mode of ethnic assimilation by dealing with the questions: Who are more likely to marry out of their ethnic community? Are those ethnic minority members of higher class more likely to do so? This paper explores the socioeconomic status selectivity of intermarriage among ethnic minority residents in urban China. The 1% sample data of the 1990 Chinese census are used for the analysis and the situations of top ten minority groups (in population size) are discussed. The research findings reveal that the ethnic minority members of different occupational and educational background were equally likely to marry with the Han majority and that no significant socioeconomic status selectivity were found present in urban China from 1950 to 1990, which is largely due to the indiscriminating reality of highly ethnic-mixed workplaces and neighborhoods in the urban society. Keywords: China, ethnicity, social class, intermarriage, assimilation