A – Minorities, national belonging, and state-building

“Us” vs. “the other”: Minorities and national identities

Event Details

  • Date

    Sunday, 28 June - 9:00 – 11:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    A – Minorities, national belonging, and state-building
Convenor
  • Alsu Tagirova (East China Normal University)
Chair
  • Suvi Kansikas (University of Helsinki)
Commentator
  • Suvi Kansikas (University of Helsinki)
Panelists
  • Maximilian Mayer (University of Nottingham Ningbo China)
  • Tao Chen (Tongji University)
  • Alsu Tagirova (East China Normal University)
  • Piotr Dutkiewicz (Maria-Curie-Skłodowska-Universität)

Papers

  • Maximilian Mayer
    Diversity in architecture heritage protection: restoring, recreating and representing the past across China

    Diversity in architecture heritage protection: restoring, recreating and representing the past across China

    Heritage protection in China has started long before the central government made imperial history a key narrative to legitimize foreign policy and China’s course as a great power. My talk will focus especially on architectural heritage – given the almost unimaginable forces of destruction and demolition that have swept the country due urbanization policies during the recent decades. In contrast to often simplified and politically instrumentalized historical narratives that underwrite the ruling party’s legitimacy, the motifs, agendas, and methods of projects for architectural heritage protection are quite diverse and driven by individual concerns. Comparing various examples of architecture heritage protection across different provinces, diverging and partially conflicting narratives about China’s past and legitimate ways of remembering it emerge. While all this indicates an intensifying search for local roots and collective identity or “Chineseness”, the related practices of memory remain pluralistic. There are exciting ways to conceptualize this observation in terms of domestic politics and my talk will develop some related preliminary thoughts. It is clear that the past is not under control of a single homogeneous master narrative. Remembering history - through buildings, roads and public spaces - remains a powerful source for Chinese citizens to articulate their own visions of the future and substantiate divers claims to identity and history.
  • Tao Chen
    China’s repatriation of German expats in the aftermath of the WWII

    China’s repatriation of German expats in the aftermath of the WWII

    When Nazi Germany was defeated in May 1945, tens of thousands of German expats had lived in Shanghai for over a decade. Facing the uncertainties at home, most Germans wanted to stay in China and tried their best to do so. However, the Kuomintang government under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek decided to force all German expats to leave. The repatriation began in 1946, when the first group of Germans were transported by American navy vessels. Following the victory of the Chinese Communist Party in mainland China, the rest of German expats continued to be repatriated until the early 1950s after the communist China had stepped into a Cold War with both the United States and West Germany. Current studies of German expats focus on the Wartime Jews and Nazi members in China, thus leaving a huge academic gap to be filled and a lot of problems still need to be clarified. For example, what are the main driving factors behind Republican government’s decision to repatriate the Germans? How did the local administration implement orders from above and deal with the German expats? The ramifications of this repatriation seem to be huge (for example, in Republican China’s relations with the USA ,Sino-West German relations during the Cold War, as well as the origins of pacifism and neutralism in West Germany). Drawing on multi-archival sources from Germany, the USA, China and Taiwan, my paper aims to shed new light on this important part of China’s relations with Germany.
  • Alsu Tagirova
    “Nevada -Semipalatinsk” Movement: Searching for National Idea in Soviet Kazakhstan in the late 1980s.

    “Nevada -Semipalatinsk” Movement: Searching for National Idea in Soviet Kazakhstan in the late 1980s.

    The recent HBO series about the tragedy of 1986 in Chernobyl has shed new light on the history of the development of the Soviet nuclear program and the attempts at its peaceful use. It also revisited the issue of the decay of the Soviet state and the relationship between the center and a periphery. Yet there is at least one more place in the Soviet state, Semipalatinsk, located in the Kazakh steppe, which has become infamous for the number of nuclear tests carried out here and the radiation which became a leading cause for cancer and other terminal diseases, as well as hereditary deformations that continue to haunt the generations of Kazakhs to come. The paper attempts to see the “Nevada -Semipalatinsk” movement which was started in 1989 and led to the closure of the Semipalatinsk Test Site in 1991 through the prism of the development of national identity and national soul-searching that preceded the somewhat forced independence of Kazakhstan. Led by a prominent Kazakh writer and politician Olzhas Suleimenov it was an important part of a greater movement for the revival of the Kazakhs as a nation and development of a new relationship between the center of the Soviet state in Moscow and a periphery which for the first time in many years felt empowered.
  • Piotr Dutkiewicz
    Uighur minority in the perspective of the Islamic world

    Uighur minority in the perspective of the Islamic world

    The Uighur minority is historically associated with the Xinjiang area. It is worth considering this problem from a slightly different perspective. This region, lying at the crossroads of communication routes, and above all at the strategic point of the new version of the historic Silk Road, Belt and Road Initiative, which is currently under construction, is a crucial place for the future of China's economic development and expansion. Uighur separatism has its roots in the complicated history of the region, full of conquests, displacement, lack of statehood or ephemeral forms, cultural and religious heritage, and ultimately the frustration caused by disparities in the use of economic growth between the Uighur indigenous people and the incoming Chinese population of Han. On the one hand, the Islamic Movement of the East Turkestan is a real threat to the unity of the People's Republic of China, on the other, there is the phenomenon of persecution of the Uighur minority. It is closely related to the policy of sinization and correcting the social structure of Xinjiang. What is the attitude of the Islamic world, which is the same cultural circle, to the Uighurs? Is it permanent or changing under the influence of other political players? Is Turkey really a country that has always supported the Uighur minority or does their position depend on the international situation? Do countries where Islam dominates more closely identify with the concept represented by the Uighur World Congress or do they support the Islamic movement of Eastern Turkestan? Can the reaction of the Islamic world improve the situation of the Uighur minority or worsen it? What place and what influence does the Uighur Diaspora have on improving Uighurs in Xinjiang? Research will be interdisciplinary. I will use the historical aspect only to the extent necessary to examine the issues raised. I will present potential scenarios that may arise in the context of the future of Uighur minority relations with the Islamic world.

Abstract

The role of minorities within the progress of any society is often irreplaceable and almost always underappreciated.  Minority and its principal characteristics help the majority better define itself. At times these characteristics which are fundamentally different create a conflict which the core nation along with minorities has to overcome. There are moments when a nation has to do some soul-searching, trying to see whether embracing a minority, excluding it or producing a fusion of cultures would be the best way to move forward.  This soul-searching process when understanding yourself comes through understanding the “other” is what unites the three papers in our panel. The panel touches on different aspects of exclusion from and integration into societies that struggle with the everlasting issues of “us” and “the other”. Maximilian Mayer’s paper focuses on historical memory and what it means to be Chinese. He explores the ways in which architecture in China addresses the issues of diversity and tries to process often conflicting historical narratives. Tao Chen tells a fascinating story of China which for at least a decade provided a safe haven to both Nazi Germans and the Jews, only to repatriate the former. He tries to understand how the new political situation reshapes the understanding of the Chinese as to what constitutes a friend, who is a foe, and where a nation stands in all that especially with the new world order starting to be put into place. Alsu Tagirova explores a regional movement for the closure of a nuclear test site in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan through the prism of nationalism and even separatism. She hopes to see how the civic activism of an ethnic minority has paved a way to the creating of a stronger national identity and the ability to leave the USSR as a nation-state.