Under the Heel of the Dragon: Islam, Racism, Crime, and the Uighur in China (Ohio RIS Global Series) (2007)
by Blaine Kaltman
The Turkic Muslims from Central Asia known as the Uighur have long faced social and economic disadvantages in China due to their minority status. Under the Heel of the Dragon: Islam, Racism, Crime, and the Uighur in China offers a unique insight into current conflicts resulting from the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the Chinese government’s oppression of religious minorities that have heightened the degree of polarization between the Uighur and the dominant Chinese ethnic group, the Han.
Author Blaine Kaltman’s study is based on in-depth interviews that he conducted in Chinese without either the aid of an interpreter or the knowledge of the Chinese government. These riveting conversations expose the thoughts of a wide socioeconomic spectrum of Han and Uighur, revealing their mutual prejudices. The Uighurs believe that the Han discriminate against them in almost every aspect of their lives, and this perception of racism motivates the Uighurs’ own prejudice against the Han.
Kaltman reports that Uighur criminal activity (unlike that of other minorities, which predominantly occurs within their own communities) is directed against their perceived oppressors, the Han Chinese. Under the Heel of the Dragon offers a unique insight into a misunderstood world and a detailed explanation of the cultural perceptions that drive these misconceptions.
Just based on the blurb there’s already some red flags – he conducts all the interviews in Chinese, no interpreters, no basic knowledge of the Chinese government. And they just straight up say Uighurs direct their criminal activity towards Han? The amount of studies and stats required to come to that conclusion requires so much work I don’t understand how someone who only conducted interviews in Chinese would know that? Apparently he has postgrad degrees in criminal justice (USA) and sociology (AUS) but still… he only spent 5 years in China and didn’t learnt to speak Uyghurche? So I checked the reviews on Amazon and lmao:
“One strange thing about this book is that the author had such a difficult time finding a mosque in Shanghai while living there. I found the Xiaotaoyuan Mosque one afternoon while just walking around during a two-day stopover. Others can be found here: […].
On Kaltman’s methodology: He claims to have conducted an ethnography. The fact is that most credible ethnography is marked by long-term personal involvement with those being studied. Kaltman conducted research over a period of less than a year at four sites. This would put him at 3 months per site which doesn’t quite meet the criterion of length. He repeatedly characterizes his interviews as “in-depth” but they seem to be more like casual one-off conversations. He talks with people on the street; there is no evidence of trust – the type of trust that builds relationships and leads to meaningful conversations and analysis.
On Kaltman’s conclusions: His advocacy of Mandarin-language assimilation made me shiver. To that I say, shame on you Blaine Kaltman. I admit that I am biased because I am a proponent of linguistic diversity. But I feel that Kaltman is somewhat blinded by the merits he associates with the eradication of the Uyghur language. I find it strange that Kaltman says that a number of the Uyghurs he met were proponents of the removal of the Uyghur language from the regional system of education. I spent a year and a half in the Uyghur region and I didn’t meet a single Uyghur who advocated for Mandarin language assimilation. All the Uyghurs I know are upset that their language is losing ground to Mandarin in the regional system of education.
It pains me to give a one star rating to a novice researcher but I found Kaltman’s conclusions unconscionable and appalling.”
Lmao that was a 1 star review so for some balance here’s a 5 star review:
“Scholarly work on different sects and religions in China, Interesting, well done, worth the time to read.”
But here are some that made me laugh:
“As far as his insights, the author makes a few that are helpful in understanding the plight of Uighurs living in Xinjiang. If you want to get a Uighur’s perspective on issues of Chinese gov’t, relations with Hans etc this is a relatively good book to buy. HOWEVER, Kaltman writes like a giant tool. I guess I’m being nitpicky on grammar, but he continually does not use articles before writing “Uighur”. For instance, he writes “…as good spoken Mandarin is a crucial factor in opening legitimate opportunities for Uighur.” ARE YOU AN IDIOT KALTMAN??? ITS THE UIGHURS, OR EVEN UIGHURS, THEY’RE NOT SHEEP OR MOOSE, THERE ARE PLURAL FORMS OF UIGHUR. So, to wrap up, I hope Kaltman spends an eternity in a lake of hellfire reading things with dumb grammar mistakes for a stupid paper he has to write. I hate you Blaine Kaltman.”
“Kaltman provides a comprehensive discussion of Uyghur/Han perspectives but seems to have a bias toward the Han perspective. Perhaps because he speaks Mandarin not Uyghur. Also, a fundamental error throughout the book and in photo captions raises doubt as to the accuracy and intimacy the author has with the Uyghurs. He refers constantly to “goat meat”, when the meat is mutton and the food either kabob or shish kabob. How could the author make such a basic error when the Uyghur are famous for their wonderful kabob? Did he not ever eat Uyghur food? Doesn’t he know the difference between a goat and a sheep? Was there editorial review of the book? Also, his interviews of Uyghur professionals numbered only 8 vs.41 for Han; biasing the persective to less educated Uyghur and more educated Han. My own experience on 3 trips to Xinjiang since 2004 are significantly more positive to Uyghur than he has portrayed. Regardless, his discussion of the Uyghur people is illuminating but one should not consider the perspectives he draws as necessarily accurate.”
Goat and sheep are very different meats, my man.