Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, History, George Washington University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Area and Cultural Studies, Harvard University
The Muslim Emperor of China: Everyday Encounter in Law and Ritual in Xinjiang, 1877-1933

This dissertation argues that Chinese and Uyghurs in Xinjiang in the late Qing and early Republic, roughly from the fall of an Islamic emirate in the 1870s to the beginnings of Soviet hegemony in the 1930s, developed a common set of institutions and a cultural vocabulary for the articulation of power and authority. New narratives incorporating the Chinese emperor and history into Turko-Islamic cultural frames mediated between the affective modes of expression of imperial subjecthood and the statutory inscription of ethnic and religious categories. Either group learned to borrow from the symbolic vocabularies and cultural forms of the other in order to negotiate their relationships and legitimize their own positions in a shifting social and political order. On the basis of Chinese local and central archives, Turkic-language texts, and other sources in a number of languages, I argue that such transcultural phenomena emerged from the everyday experience of routine interactions between Muslim subjects and Qing and Chinese local government, particularly in the pursuit of justice and dispute resolution. As such, my dissertation also explores for the first time the encounter between Islamic and Chinese legal systems. I explore issues of legal pluralism and legal culture through changes in procedure, jurisprudence, and the social uses of the court systems. Informal practices from China proper became formalized on the frontier, yet they operated in an environment where power functioned rhizomatically across groups. This new model of Xinjiang society and politics in a period of minimal state penetration provides a better explanation for major violent incidents in this period that scholars have understood as incipient ethno-national uprisings. I demonstrate instead that events, including those surrounding the Xinhai Revolution, were part of a broader pattern of violence and inter-communal accommodation in local society.