“The Political Economy of Song and Dance in Securitised Xinjiang”
SOAS University of London
Monday 5 June 2023, 1 PM
Conference Room 1, Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, Academia Sinica
State projects of development and control can be described as processes of territorialisation, which involve the transformation of both physical landscapes and the subjectivities of the people who inhabit them. Drawing on her long-standing research in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, Rachel Harris highlights the ways that music and dance are now being used to rewrite the history of the region and the future of its peoples. Inside the internment camps, detainees sing revolutionary songs as part of a regime designed to discipline and transform Uyghur bodies and minds. Outside the camps, Uyghur song-and-dance is deployed to project a Disneyfied theme park image of the region via social media and to service the tourist experience on the ground. Harris draws parallels with studies of music, settler colonialism and racialised mass incarceration in other contexts, and reflects on the role of the ethnomusicologist in polarised political conditions.
Rachel Harris is Professor of Ethnomusicology at SOAS, University of London. Her research focuses on musical life in China’s Muslim borderlands, religious and expressive culture among the Uyghurs, and cultural policy in China. Her latest book Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam (Indiana University Press 2020) won the BFE 2022 book prize. She is currently working on a British Academy Sustainable Development Project to revitalize Uyghur cultural heritage in Kazakhstan.