I am engaged in work on Chinese development planning and urbanization in Xinjiang, changes within urban Uyghur society, and the ever-evolving state-society relationship in Xinjiang’s cities.
I also work on issues more broadly related to transnational cooperation between China and Central Asian states. This includes both domestic and cross-border impacts of China’s efforts to build the Silk Road Economic Belt. Further, I study pre-existing institutions and prior attempts to coordinate regional development, especially within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and regional development banks. I am as interested in the planning process as I am in the consequences of these plans on the land and the people they affect.
My book manuscript, Chinese Construction at the New Frontier: The Government of Uyghur Identity in Urban Xinjiang, combines ethnographic research with historical and policy analysis to assess the relationship between urban development, social control, and identity politics among upwardly mobile Uyghurs in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. I argue that the Chinese state has imported a model of development from coastal China to urban Xinjiang in an attempt to re-engineer Uyghur society on a grand scale. And on this narrow criteria, it has succeeded – though what, exactly, it has engineered bears little resemblance to that which was planned.