Project

State of Dispossession: Voices of Belonging & the Colonial Politics of Land in Pastoral Xinjiang

Program

Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Early Career Fellowships

Department

Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies

Abstract

Over the last seventy years, the Chinese state has appropriated the pastures and ancestral homes of Kazakhs in Xinjiang to build industrialized dairies and farms, conservation spaces, and “native” tourist villages. My book project describes this long process of dispossession as well as Kazakhs’ struggle to maintain their sense of place by drawing on (auto)ethnography, Kazakh literature (written and oral), an extensive archive of Chinese government documents, and hundreds of hours of testimonies related to land and property confiscation collected from Kazakh refugees who have fled Xinjiang in recent years. This research shows how Kazakh disenfranchisement in the interest of Chinese frontier development and securitization parallels global forms of settler colonialism, “green grabs,” and native removal. This, in turn, generates questions about decolonizing practices associated with environmental justice and reconsiderations of Uyghur and Kazakh relations to the land as Indigenous knowledge practices.