Speaker: Dr Joanne Smith Finley

Following the 2009 riots in Xinjiang, senior leaders met in Beijing in March 2010 to call for an East-West collaboration in which richer provinces and municipalities would act as donors and investors in a scheme to build Xinjiang into a ‘moderately well-off society’.

A similar drive was announced in Tibetan regions, suggesting that Chinese leaders continue to believe that developing the economies of restive peripheral regions will quell ethnic instability. The ‘national partner assistance programme’, involving 19 provinces and municipalities in China proper, is expected to provide financial support, training and education to Xinjiang’s least developed southern oases, where the majority population is Uyghur. Yet most of these initiatives are perceived as intended to benefit Han migrants, who are increasingly encouraged to escape to Xinjiang’s beautiful landscapes from China’s over-populated East.

Local Uyghurs claim the programme has done little to assist people in Xinjiang, but rather speeds the process of ‘giving away what belongs to us’. In this talk, Dr Smith Finley examines the stated aims of the ‘national partner assistance programme’ (development; redistribution of wealth), outlines possible truths behind the policy, and predicts its likely consequences.

About the speaker

Joanne Smith Finley is Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies in the School of Modern Languages at Newcastle University. Her research interests include the formation, transformation, hybridisation and globalisation of identities among the Uyghurs of contemporary Xinjiang, China; strategies of symbolic resistance among the Uyghurs; alternative representations in Uyghur popular song and popular culture; the ethno-politics of the hostess industry in Xinjiang; and changing gender norms among Uyghurs in urban Xinjiang and in the diaspora. She has published a range of journal articles and book chapters on these topics, and her monograph The Art of Symbolic Resistance: Uyghur Identities and Uyghur-Han Relations in Contemporary Xinjiang (Brill Academic Publishing) was published in 2013. This is an ethnographic study of evolving Uyghur identities and ethnic relations over a period of 20 years (from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union through the 1997 Ghulja disturbances and the 2009 Ürümchi riots to the present). Dr Smith Finley is also co-editor of two edited volumes: Situating the Uyghurs between China and Central Asia (Ashgate, 2007) and Language, Education and Uyghur Identity in Urban Xinjiang (Routledge, forthcoming in 2015).

All welcome

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