Uyghur suffering, uncertainty, and academic interpretation

James McMurray


Scholars of life in Xinjiang have faced unprecedented stakes and uncertainty in recent years. Access to the region and its people is curtailed, and the information coming out of it is limited both by state efforts to obfuscate the details of conditions there and by the need for researchers to protect their informants. Despite these impediments to research, however, anthropology and anthropologists have played a uniquely important role in revealing and interpreting the details of the recent crisis. Here, I outline both the importance of anthropological approaches to making sense of the Xinjiang crisis, and the implications of the discipline’s engagement with it for debates on professional ethics and the role of anthropologists in the face of human suffering.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/721183