Indiana University Bloomington
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The History of Xinjiang
CEUS-U 320/U520
Gardner Bovingdon

Does Xinjiang have a history of its own?

How have migration, religion, and empire-building shaped the region?

The region today known as Xinjiang has had a tumultuous political history, often at the margin of other empires, sometimes itself the seat of empires, and sometimes parceled into warring statelets.  It is geographically part of Central Asia, though it has also come under the political ambit of China.  Peoples inhabiting the region have been animists, Zoroastrians, Nestorian Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims.  Nomads and settled farmers, poets and philologists, Turkic warriors, Chinese monks, and Arab traders have lived in the region – and archeologists have recently unearthed there ancient mummies some consider European. This course will introduce Xinjiang's complex cultural, ethnic, religious, and geopolitical history from the first millennium BCE to the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911. We will consider the link between ecology and economy, the effects of Uyghur, Chinese, Mongol, and Manchu empire-building, the process and consequences of Islamicization, the abortive Jadidist movement, and the first stirrings of nationalism. We will give attention to the problem of sources and contemporary historiographic controversies.