chapter  1
The burden of the past
Uyghur peasants remember collectivisation in southern Xinjiang
WithIldikó Bellér-Hann
Pages 17

This chapter explores a preliminary enquiry into Uyghur villagers' memories of and reflections on the collectivised period. Most of the fieldwork was carried out in two Uyghur villages selected by Han research partners in the vicinity of Kashgar in southern Xinjiang, in the course of four months in 1996. Villagers' stories of suffering and displays of agency emerge as the consequence of the state's forceful reorganisation of traditional spatial and temporal arrangements. As commemorative memory reaches out to Uyghur cultural memory as the most important point of reference through which group loyalties and discontent with policies are articulated, it has every potential to flow into and strengthen Uyghur supra-local, ethno-national identity. The criminalisation of activities perceived as essential for perpetuating community, such as praying, transmitting skills and elementary religious knowledge, and shrine-visiting had the unintended effect of strengthening a sense of local belonging and communal cohesion.