Cultural destruction in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Dr. Elise Anderson’s presentation)

On May 9, 2020, we hosted a symposium on what is happening in Xinjiang and why it matters. Dru Gladney of Pomona College reviewed the history of China’s policies toward ethnic minorities and the region’s economic and strategic importance. Nurnisa Kurban of UyghurLA shared her experiences growing up in Kashgar and attending Xinjiang University and describing the very real human cost of the party-state’s increasingly tight controls in the region. Ethnomusicologist Elise Anderson drew on her years of research in Xinjiang to detail the assault on Uyghur culture, highlighting the example of the Muqam. In addition to their presentations, each of these scholars responded to a variety of questions including on what’s driving these policies and the impact they are having on families and individuals. Are the policies counterproductive? How has the migration of Han Chinese to the region changed it? Won’t economic development erase the tensions in the region? Is Are Americans and other Westerners concerned about Xinjiang only because of the negative light it shines on China? These questions and more were discussed.

The discussion attracted a huge audience live. Some of those participating are well-known figures (a former Indian ambassador, scholars, and activists). Many were educators in schools. The event was part of our workshop series offered in conjunction with the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia, funded by the Freeman Foundation.
Elise Anderson - Sr. Program Officer for Research & Advocacy, Uyghur Human Rights Project
Dr. Elise Anderson earned dual PhD degrees in Central Eurasian Studies and Ethnomusicology from Indiana University-Bloomington in August 2019. Her doctoral research, which is based on years of primary research in the Uyghur region, focuses on the relationships between Uyghur music and politics. She is fluent in Uyghur and proficient in Mandarin. In 2019, she served as Liu Xiaobo Fellow at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a U.S. federal commission tasked with monitoring the status of human rights and the rule of law in the PRC.