Inverted exile: Uyghur writers and artists in Beijing and the political implications of their work

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In the little research that has been done on Uyghurs living in Beijing, they have usually been identified as internal migrants and studied in a framework that focused on socioeconomic factors. This article, by contrast, argues that the experience of many of these Uyghurs actually more closely resembles that of exiles, being linked primarily, as I show, to ethnic politics and particularly to the ongoing political repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Because historically in China people were normally exiled from Beijing to Xinjiang, I refer to the Uyghur experience in Beijing as "inverted exile." The article explores the Uyghur exile through the life and creative work of two Uyghur individuals, one musician and one writer, and points out their expressions of alienation, nationalism, nostalgia, longing for return, and ethnic dissent. With emphasis on the last, the article suggests that the exile in Beijing has surprisingly provided Uyghurs with a rare freedom to voice dissent at a time when Uyghur oppositional voices have been almost totally silenced in Xinjiang. After analyzing several examples of dissent, the article examines why Uyghur dissent was possible in Beijing and considers the implications of this dissent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)462-504
Number of pages43
JournalModern China
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Anwar Muhammad
  • Askar
  • China
  • Exile
  • Resistance
  • Uyghur(s)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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