A Look Inside the Heterogeneous World of Women in Northwestern China

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A careful observer traveling through the cities of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) would not fail to notice men wearing a sort of white skullcap, women’s faces covered with a brown veil, crescents in-between Mao portraits, and cupolas and Islamic symbols jutting out among traditional Chinese architecture. This is the image of an area between the so-called Celestial Empire and the Red Crescent, between a world governed by the Chinese Communist Party and the Muslim world of the Central Asia. Describing the heterogeneous world of women of this region is the main objective of this study. It intends to identify the theories and practices regarding women and gender, accompanied by an overview on the material conditions of women throughout the different periods of Xinjiang history. As Xinjiang appears to be a rather complex region where there seems to be spectrum trends and ideas, from nationalism to Islam extremism, from Han laicism to ideal Islam, so also are its women. In the streets of Urumqi and Kashgar, one finds a varied feminine
world: from veiled women to Westernized ones, from traditionalist women to
Sinicized ones…
The mainly ethnographic, although partly linguistic, approach demonstrates how
the current status of women is directly linked to local values and/or to Islam
and/or to Han.


Keywords: Uyghur, China, Women, Identity, Islam
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A Look Inside the Heterogeneous World of Women in Northwestern China


Dr. Elena Caprioni

PhD Student, Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Cagliari
Giulianova, Italy

I obtained MA Honours in Foreign Literatures and Languages (Chinese and English) at the University of Rome (Italy) in 2003. I focused my thesis on the relations among China, Xinjiang and Central Asia after 1991. Now, I' m pursuing a Ph. D in History and International Relations of Asia and Africa at the University of Cagliari. My research is exploring the impact of 9.11 on Xinjiang in order to explain how China adopted a "strike hard" campaign against Uyghurs, who are condemned as terrorist by the international community.

Ref: I08P0035