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Between the State and the Ummah: The Hui Negotiation of Identity in Northwest China

CHARLES, GERARD,ANTHONY (2018) Between the State and the Ummah: The Hui Negotiation of Identity in Northwest China. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This study examines the genesis and on going development of Hui identity in Xining, Qinghai. The people today known as Hui have always negotiated their identity between the Chinese governing centre and Islam. Employing a theory of centre-periphery civilisational influence pioneered by Stevan Harrell, this ethnography seeks to determine the relative influence of the Chinese hegemonic centre on the one hand, and the Islamic ummah on the other, on the construction of national, ethnic and religious identity. Historical Islamic influences have resulted in a peculiarly sectarian nature to Islam in northwest China, and attitudes to the identity project of the governing centre are shown to vary across the sectarian spectrum. The Party-State actively promotes the Zhonghua minzu national identity, and employs the concept of ethnic unity (minzu tuanjie) to seek to incorporate China’s ethnic minorities into this one over-arching national identity. Arguably, Islam teaches the brotherhood of all Muslims, and sees this faith identity as superior and prior to all others. The strategy for inclusion of Muslims in the Chinese identity has been a project of the Chinese State, and involves the adaptation and utilisation of Islam to achieve the purposes of the State.

Through a content analysis of core publications, I first describe the process through which the Party-State sought to adapt Islam to be in harmony with China’s socialist society, and then how the State actively promoted this correct version of Islam through a series of authorised sermons and political tropes in the Muslim directed media. Then, using detailed interviews and participant observation, I explain how Hui responses to this correct Islam are shaped by the different expressions of Islam in Xining, reflecting the various external and internal Islamic influences. The strong sectarian nature of Islamic identity in Xining directly influences the acceptance or resistance of the hegemonic centre’s communication of national, ethnic and religious identity. The persistence of sectarian identity represents the strongest influence on Hui identity formation, and is possibly encouraged by the Party-State to counter the political power of a fully united Muslim Hui identity.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2018
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:30 Apr 2018 10:11

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