Sean R. Roberts
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Settler colonialism in the name of counterterrorism
Of ‘savages’ and ‘terrorists’
in The Xinjiang emergency
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This chapter demonstrates that the roots of cultural genocide in Xinjiang can be found in the colonial relationship between modern China and the indigenous people of the region that has marked Uyghurs and other native non-Hans since the nineteenth century as ‘inferior’ and ‘backwards’ vis-à-vis the ideal of Chinese civilization. While the People’s Republic of China (PRC) could work to decolonize this relationship, Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) appears to be establishing a model for modern China, which does not recognize the strategies of decolonization or multiculturalism as options, but rather seeks the assimilation of non-Han peoples into a Han-centric state culture. In the post-9/11 era this dynamic has been accentuated by the Chinese state’s framing of its approach to the region’s Turkic Muslim populations as motivated by ‘counterterrorism’. The chapter demonstrates that the deployment of the discourse of ‘counterterrorism’ has served to dehumanize entire groups of people, precluding those to whom it is applied from having any legitimate grievances. Instead the actions of the targeted populations are characterized as being reflections of ‘irrational’ and ‘extremist’ Islamic beliefs. The chapter concludes that while ‘counterterrorism’ is more a justification for cultural genocide in Xinjiang than it is a motivation for state actions, it has also facilitated cultural genocide by internalizing amongst many state officials and citizens the belief that Uyghurs and related peoples are an existential threat to society and deserving of the violent policies that target them.

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The Xinjiang emergency

Exploring the causes and consequences of China’s mass detention of Uyghurs



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