Online lecture by Rachel Harris: Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam

Date & Time

Jan 7, 2021 04:00 PM CET


Trainee Centre Online


Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam is based on ten years of ethnographic and digital research covering the build-up to the current crisis of securization and mass incarceration in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The book is centred around the religious practice of a group of Uyghur women in a small village now engulfed in this chaos. Despite their remote location, these village women are mobile and connected, and their religious soundscapes flow out across transnational networks. Drawing on contemporary approaches to the circulation of popular music, Rachel Harris considers how forms of Islam, from Quranic recitation to anashid, arrive via travel and the Internet and come into dialogue with local embodied practices and facilitate powerful, affective experiences of faith. The book explores the spiritual and political geographies inhabited by rural Uyghur women, moving outward from the village to trace connections with Mecca, Istanbul, Bishkek, and Beijing. Sound, embodiment, and territoriality illuminate both the patterns of religious change among Uyghurs and the policies of cultural erasure used by the Chinese state to reassert its control over the land the Uyghurs occupy.


Rachel Harris is Professor of Ethnomusicology in the School of Arts at SOAS, University of London. Her research focuses on the politics of culture and heritage in China, and the ethnography of religious life among the Uyghurs. She led the Leverhulme Research Project ‘Sounding Islam in China’ (2014-2017) and is now working with Turan University in Kazakhstan on a British Academy Sustainable Development Project to revitalise Uyghur language and culture in the diaspora (link). Her latest monograph, ‘Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam,’ is just out with Indiana University Press, and her co-edited volume ‘Ethnographies of Islam in China’ is published by University of Hawaii Press.