On the Fringes of the Harmonious Society: Tibetans and Uyghurs in Socialist China

Edited by Trine Brox and Ildiko Beller-Hann, Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2014, 320 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-8776941413

A book that discusses the Tibetan and Uyghur political situation in one place, something that is surprisingly rare considering how similar we are in this regard. Apparently it is “the product of successive interdisciplinary conferences held at the University of Copenhagen in 2010 and 2011, features the work of both new and seasoned scholars who study Tibet and Xinjiang from the perspectives of sociology, anthropology, language, geography, economics and history” (source). Alas, I do not own the book, but I read a few interesting reviews by Ruslan Yusupov, Henryk AlffJustin M. Jacobs, and Colin Mackerras.

From these, it seems like the book discusses China’s failure to implement their supposed “harmonious society”, but falls a little short in directly comparing the Tibetan and Uyghur situations, instead having most authors discuss one or the other. I suppose it is difficult to study both, considering how different we are culturally and linguistically. In general however, most reviewers said it was well written and an important contribution so I suppose it would be interesting to read.


Since 1949, Tibetans and Uyghurs generally have been perceived as the two most problematic members of the PRC’s great family of peoples and been the targets of ‘carrot and stick’ measures designed to facilitate their integration into the PRC. In recent years, a solution to the problem of Xinjiang and the Tibet has been sought in accelerated economic development, yet this is perceived by both groups with great suspicion. Addressing this situation, the volume explores the arenas of socio-economic development and market liberalization, popular culture, urban planning and relocation, environment and ecological migration, civil society, education and language, ethno-nationalism, as well as religious policies and practices. It is especially topical at a time when fieldwork in the regions where these two minorities live remains extremely difficult and politically sensitive.


  1. Introduction Trine Brox
  2. Labour transitions and social inequalities in Tibet and Xinjiang: A comparative analysis of the structural foundations of discrimination and protest Andrew Martin Fischer
  3. The Open Up the West campaign among Uyghurs in Xinjiang: Exploring a rights-based approach Henryk Szadziewski
  4. Carpet worlds: The construction of a commodity hierarchy and the politics of difference in Lhasa Tracy Y. Zhang
  5. In the name of conservation and harmonious development: The separation of pastoralists from pastures in Tibet Tashi Nyima
  6. New settlements on the Tibetan Plateau of Amdo-Qinghai: Spatialized power devices Elisa Cencetti
  7. Harmonious or homogeneous? Language, education and social mobility in rural Uyghur society Chris Hann
  8. Streets, slogans and screens: New paradigms for the defence of the Tibetan language Francoise Robin
  9. Tibet in China’s environmental movement Emily T. Yeh
  10. Contesting harmony through TV drama: Ethnic intermarriage in Xinjiang Girls Joanne Smith Finley
  11. Harmonizing Islam in Xinjiang: Sound and meaning in rural Uyghur religious practice Rachel Harris
  12. Thinking beyond harmony: The ‘nation’ and language in Uyghur social thought Eric T. Schluessel.

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