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Securing China's Northwest Frontier
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Book description

In the first study to incorporate majority Han and minority Uyghur perspectives on ethnic relations in Xinjiang following mass violence during July 2009, David Tobin analyses how official policy shapes identity and security dynamics on China's northwest frontier. He explores how the 2009 violence unfolded and how the party-state responded to ask how official identity narratives and security policies shape practices on the ground. Combining ethnographic methodology with discourse analysis and participant-observation with in-depth interviews, Tobin examines how Han and Uyghurs interpret and reinterpret Chinese nation-building. He concludes that by treating Chinese identity as a security matter, the party-state exacerbates cycles of violence between Han and Uyghurs who increasingly understand each other as threats.


‘If you want to understand Xinjiang and Chinese policymaking, read David Tobin's book. Its critique of Beijing's nation-building policy looks to both the local politics of Han-Uyghur relations, and the global politics of identity, security, and postcolonial IR. Tobin's fieldwork with both Han Chinese and Uyghurs in Ürümchi makes this book particularly valuable.'

William A. Callahan - London School of Economics and Political Science

‘Tobin's timely treatise is of interest to specialists of the region, policy makers, development planners, social theorists, and comparative political scientists. His close analysis of the policies and events leading up to the watershed July 2009 riots, as well as his thoughtful sifting through the subsequent tidal shift in State policy toward the entire region, deftly explains the subsequent radical securitization of the region.'

Dru C. Gladney - Pomona College

‘In one of the first ethnographic works on the post-2009 policy shift towards ethnic 'fusion', Tobin eloquently illustrates how boundaries in Xinjiang have hardened to produce a tripartite 'ethno-hierarchy of insecurities'. Most compelling is his argument that the multi-ethnic, Han-centric Zhonghua minzu is fatally flawed because it entails the competing logics of an imperial civilisation (which excludes Uyghurs as 'barbarians') and a modern nation-state (which seeks to violently transform and include them). Essential reading within and beyond Xinjiang studies.’

Jo Smith Finley - Newcastle University

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