Ethnic Games in Xinjiang: Anthropological Approaches
When the ethnic history of a territory is as complex as that of Xinjiang, any starting point is necessarily arbitrary. Besides, I am not a historian. Rather, my aim in the first part of this chapter is to suggest how recent anthropological discussions of 'ethnicity' might illuminate nationality relations in Xinjiang in the period before its liberation and incorporation into the People's Republic of China. I stress that this part of the chapter is all hypothesis and suggestion, based upon limited acquaintance with a small part of the secondary historical materials available to me, all of them in Western languages. The second part of the paper is based more securely upon an anthropological convention, namely, fieldwork observation. I was in Urumqi, modern capital of Xinjiang, in August 1986 for the duration of the Third National Minority Sports Meeting. This occasion, in the context of five months' continuous residence in Xinjiang, provided a good opportunity of studying a kind of modern ritual in which many anthropologists have been interested, and in particular, to consider how such rituals can help to legitimate the policies pursued towards minority groups in China today.