Boundaries, Discrimination, and Interethnic Conflict in Xinjiang, China

Enze Han


The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region has been afflicted by Uighur political activism and ethnic violence for the past few decades. Interethnic relations between the Uighurs and Han Chinese have been extremely tense. Why is Xinjiang so vulnerable to interethnic violence? Why are intergroupdynamics between the Uighurs and Han Chinese so volatile? This paper examines Uighur–Han Chinese relations in contemporary Xinjiang and probes conditions that facilitate interethnic violence. Utilizing Fredrik Barth’s approach to ethnicity that emphasizes boundaries, this paper examines in detail how the rigid interethnic boundary between the Uighurs and Han Chinese has been constructed and strengthened in Xinjiang. Perceived differences have generated mutual distrust and discrimination between the two groups that make intergroup communication and understanding difficult and therefore very limited. In situations such as that in Xinjiang, where a rigid intergroup boundary is in place and civic engagements across groups are lacking, intergroup conflict isextremely hard to avoid.


Ethnic Boundary; Communal Violence; Xinjiang; Uighurs; China

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DOI: 10.4119/UNIBI/ijcv.77

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