Repetition and its discontents : space, time and identity in the city of Urumqi
University of Cambridge
Division of Archaeology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Anthony, R. (2013). Repetition and its discontents : space, time and identity in the city of Urumqi (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11745
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This dissertation examines the relationship between space and identity in the city of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China. The work explores the shifting interface between various types of spaces within the city, focusing on three major areas: dominant state space, Han Chinese space and Turkic Muslim space. Central to my argument is that that the dominant form of spatial identity arises through the process ofrepetition. From the city's establishment in the Qing dynasty up until present, there has been a sustained tendency to self-consciously reproduce an urban spatial template deployed throughout cities within inner China. At the same, time each new regime, be it imperial or modernizing, deploys a different series of repetition to the one which precedes it. The current work traces the trajectory of some of these forms as they evolve over space and time. In doing so, it describes how the political incorporation of Xinjiang into China functions at the level of the city over an extended period of time. Urumqi has, from its inception, attracted migrants in large numbers from various parts of inner China and Xinjiang itself, and thus the city's neighbourhoods have simultaneously produced a number of spatial and territorial differences within this larger framework of repetition. With a focus on Han and Turkic Uyghur communities, the dissertation also describes the parallel trajectory of these spatial differences in relation to those of the state. I portray a general situation in which Han communities have become more incorporated into the dominant spatial mode and Uyghurs less so. This observation is fleshed out in greater detail in the chapters which deal with contemporary city. Despite a multiplicity of urban forms, I argue that the difference inherent in Uyghur spatial practices is increasingly designated and reified by the state, on its behalf. Through a detailed description of this "inauthentic" and coercive expression of difference, I trace how the Uyghur neighbourhoods have become increasingly subject to what Carl Schmitt ( 2004) refers to as "the state of exception". This shift in the spatial dynamics of the city serves as significant pre-cursor to the Urumiq Riots of 2009. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of ethnographic methodologies and their relation to time. The influence of the past upon the present, coupled with the highly transient nature of present spatial organization within Chinese cities, necessitates a type of ethnography which is sensitive to the processual nature of space and place. Drawing on Bergson's concept of duration ( 1911 ), I argue for an ethnographic methodology which takes into account the persistence of the past in descriptions of the present.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11745