A Meshrep in Our Home… Where There Is No Meshrep: Contrasting Narratives in the Reinvention of a Uyghur Gathering

Snider, A. J. (2017). A Meshrep in Our Home… Where There Is No Meshrep: Contrasting Narratives in the Reinvention of a Uyghur Gathering (Doctoral dissertation, University of Kansas). Link

Abstract

The addition of Uyghur meshrep gatherings to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010 has influenced the way the gathering is promoted and understood by different segments of Uyghur society. Interviews and conversations with Uyghurs in western China together with Uyghur academic articles show how the attention brought by UNESCO status affected Uyghur perception of meshrep, creating new narratives of the gathering as foundational to Uyghur culture. I focus on how the proliferation of the term meshrep and staged portrayals of its practice after attaining UNESCO status reveals how different actors within Xinjiang use meshrep as a tool for commerce, as a representation of cultural heritage, as a way to promote state ideologies of how minorities “should” be, or as a memory of a what Uyghur life was imagined to be. I examine how meshrep is promoted and understand by Uyghurs, and also by the Chinese state and entrepreneurs in China. I situate these gatherings in the context of other Central Asian performance traditions. Different segments of Uyghur society hold a range of attitudes toward meshrep, depending on the person’s affinities. Promoting meshrep through UNESCO status has not had the cultural-renewal effect intended by some academics, but many Uyghurs still perceive meshrep gatherings as central to modern Uyghur life. The discursive practices surrounding the word meshrep itself also reflect social and linguistic issues affecting Uyghurs today.

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