Thursday, 3 May 2012

Xinjiang or East Turkestan?: The politics of a place name

East Turkestan?

How can one seek to maintain impartiality about a subject when the very words you use to describe or detail it are themselves inherently politically partisan? Such a problem exists for those who seek to explore issues in Xinjiang/East Turkestan but who do not seek to make a judgement on the political constitution of the region; or more specifically to make a judgement on either the claims of Chinese sovereignty or the claims of Uyghur independence.

To many Uyghurs, the use of the word 'Xinjiang' (meaning 'new frontier' in Mandarin) is both grossly insulting and a clear misrepresentation of history. For them, their land is not an inherent region of China, and represents no such 'frontier' of Chinese nationhood. To them, the use of the word 'Xinjiang' can be viewed as an explicit acceptance of the legitimacy of Chinese rule and, by extension, perhaps even an acceptance of China's policies in the region. 

But in the eyes of the Chinese government (and indeed most if not all Chinese people), the area has always been an integral part of the Chinese state and therefore the use of the term 'East Turkestan' is not only a misrepresentation of history but a direct challenge to the sovereignty and thus the security of China. Indeed, 'East Turkestan' seems to have been used by the Chinese government in recent years as a byword for terrorism; the very term has been 'securitized', the mere use of it deemed as a security threat. 

How, then, to navigate this political and linguistic minefield? The answer would appear to be 'with great difficulty'. No matter what term one uses to describe the geographical area discussed, there is likely to be one group of people who call foul and who will regard the discussion as subsequently illegitimate. Do we use the clumsily conjoined 'Xinjiang/East Turkestan'? Do we think of another name entirely? Or should we simply abandon the well-meaning but perhaps ultimately unsustainable quest for impartiality, commit to a political judgement and use whatever term accords to that judgement? 

All of these solutions are problematic, and in all likelihood would not contribute towards either a greater understanding of the region and its various problems or towards a dialogue which could help solve some of these problems, which should surely be the normative aim of all who work on these issues. Could those on both sides, then, perhaps not simply accept that regardless of the language we use to describe the land discussed, the most important issue should be to promote the dialogue and understanding which, ultimately, represents the best way of establishing peace, security and prosperity for all. Whilst language is important, it should not be allowed to overwhelm this process. 

1 comment:

  1. bu yil 1-ayda dunya uyghur qurultiyi dinni ishlar komititining mesuli turghun alawdin haji 5-ayda dunya uyghur qurultiyi namidin dinni ishlar yighini achimiz dep pul yighqan idi.eyni chaghda qerindashlirmiz 100-200 dollarghiche pul bergen.5-aymu alliqachan utup ketti.bu yighinning echilghanliqi toghrisda birer gep soz anglimduq.dinni ishlar yighini emeldin qalduruldimu? undaqta yighin achimiz dep yighilghan pullar nime ishlargha ishlitildu. dunya uyghur qurultiyi qerindashlirmizgha jawap berishi kerek. ilgirimu dunya uyghur qurultiyi ali kengesh achimiz,qurultay achimiz dep iqtisat yighqan.likin axirda bizning anglighinimiz rabye xanim shu pullargha xiyanet qildi digendek gep sozler boldi.pullar nege kitiwatidu?