'Invitation to a Mourning Ceremony': Perspectives on the Uyghur Internet

Perspectives on the Uyghur Internet

Authors: Rachel Harris & Aziz Isa

Published by Inner Asia Studies of Cambridge University.
Source: Inner Asia, Volume 13, Number 1, 2011 , pp. 27-49(23) Publisher: BRILL


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Abstract:


This paper offers a historically located and sociopolitical reading of the Uyghur internet, focusing on Uyghur language sites which were legally operating within China and active in the run-up to the July 2009 protests. Whilst Chinese media argued that 'hostile external forces' were using the internet as a tool to stir dissent, we suggest that the unprecedented ban reflected broader state concerns about the internet's ability to facilitate the creation of community and potential to serve as a tool of mobilisation. We translate and contextualise a selection of material downloaded from Uyghur sites shortly before the internet was shut down. These messages, images and sounds provide considerable insight into the thoughts and feelings of the protestors. We argue that this internet-based discourse has much in common with earlier, pre-digital home-grown nationalist movements, and that its emphasis on mourning is representative of a more widespread sense of self within Uyghur popular culture: one which equates national identity with grief and loss.

Keywords: INTERNET; UYGHUR; XINJIANG; INTERETHNIC VIOLENCE; DIASPORA; NATIONAL IDENTITY; MOURNING