Rian Thum, “Modular History in Context: Wider Implications of Uyghur Historical Practice under Chinese Rule”

Posted on March 30th, 2013 in Events

May 16, 12:15 pm, Encina Hall West, Room 208 (616 Serra Street)

Papers are available to Stanford affiliates upon request by email to abbasiprogram@stanford.edu.

Workshop Series: Islam and Muslims in East Asia

Rian Thum (Loyola University of New Orleans), “Modular History in Context: Wider Implications of Uyghur Historical Practice under Chinese Rule”

Abstract: This paper investigates how a regional identity can be maintained in a nonmo-dern context, focusing on the case of southern Xinjiang in the late nineteenth andearly twentieth centuries. The argument focuses on one aspect of this identity system, the popular historical tradition, arguing that its deployment through both manuscript technology and regional shrine pilgrimage contributed to the maintenance of Xinjiang’s settled Turki identity group before the constructionof the “Uyghur” identity. In the absence of a national history, separate historiesof local heroes were linked together through custom anthology production and networked travel to shrines, yielding a modular historical tradition that accom- modated local interests in regional narratives. Central to the operation of this system were community authorship in the manuscript tradition, the creationof a new genre for local history, and the publicly recorded circulation of pilgrims who heard performances of historical texts. This constellation of phenomena underpinned an alternative type of imagined community: a reasonably homogeneous, regional, writing-facilitated identity system flourishing in a nonmodern context.

Rian Thum is Assistant Professor of History at Loyola University of New Orleans. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University.  He began his academic career in archeology, working on projects in Syria, Romania, and China.  His current research interests include historical anthropology, mobility, orality and writing, historiography, numismatics, and the place of non-Han peoples in China. His book manuscript, “The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History,” explores the ways in which manuscript technology, local pilgrimage, and genre have shaped popular Uyghur understandings of history as they developed from 1600 to the present.

[Co-sponsored by Center for East Asian Studies]

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