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“Ethnic Conflicts” or “Social Riots”? How to Understand Ethnic Relations in Xinjiang

Professor Yang Zhongdong talks about ethnic relations in Xinjiang.

September 23, 2010 4:00pm to 6:00pm

Professor Yang Zhongdong, a visiting scholar from Xinjiang University’s School of Humanities, talks about recent ethnic riots in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Professor Yang argues against the use of the concept of "ethnic conflict" to describe of the 2009 riots in Xinjiang. He combines a comprehensive analysis of the riots with particular attention to social, economic, cultural, and historical factors with recollections of his own personal experiences in Xinjiang.

Professor Yang's research focus is contemporary Muslim communities in Xinjiang Province. Born in Urumqi, the region’s capital, Professor Yang is a Hui, a Muslim ethnic minority. This background helped inspire his study of the history and the culture of Xinjiang. As a scholar in Hui Studies, a fairly new discipline, Professor Yang emphasizes the importance of the ethnological discipline in his research.  Ethnology, according to Professor Yang, incorporates a large amount of fieldwork that is essential to studying one specific ethnicity.   The diversity of China dictates that an ethnological approach to studying the Xinjiang people is indispensible. His current research in Los Angeles involves comparing how religion and ethnicity shape the identity of Muslim minorities in the U.S. and China.

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