Bringing together secondary and primary sources in a wide range of languages, David Brophy’s new book is a masterful study of the modern history...

Bringing together secondary and primary sources in a wide range of languages, David Brophy’s new book is a masterful study of the modern history of the Uyghurs, the Turkic-speaking Muslims of Xinjiang. Uyghur Nation: Reform and Revolution on the Russia-China Frontier (Harvard University Press, 2016) joins what have usually been treated as separate subjects–the histories of the Soviet Uyghurs and the Xinjiang Uyghurs–into a single, coherent story of the creation of a Uyghur nation through a series of small steps undertaken in changing political conditions. The book argues that an account of the emergence of the Uyghur nation is a convergence of two stories: the rediscovery of the Turkic past among intellectuals connected to the Russian, Muslim, and Ottoman world of letters, and the history of efforts to capitalize on the breach created by the Russian Revolution to effect political change in Xinjiang. Moving away from a discourse of Uyghur nationalism in favor of an account of historical forms of Uyghurist politics, Brophy’s book will be required reading in the history and politics of Central Eurasia for many years to come.

 

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