Sean Roberts

Sep 11, 2020

The War on the Uyghurs

China’s Internal Campaign against a Muslim Minority

Princeton University Press 2020

In today’s new episode, we speak with Sean Roberts about his brand new book The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign against a Muslim Minority (Princeton University Press, 2020). Roberts is the Director of the International Development Studies program at George Washington University. He received his PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Southern California and has been studying the Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic minority, for some 30 years, including for his Master’s and PhD thesis research. In this book, Sean Roberts argues that China’s violent campaign against the Uyghur Muslim population is linked to the broader, U.S-led global war on terror, showing that China appropriates the message of the war on terror as justification for persecuting this ethnic minority. Roberts provides a detailed historical account of the current crisis, of China’s settler colonialism in the Uyghur homeland, and of the ways that China relies heavily on the war on terror to imagine Uyghurs as its enemy.

In today’s discussion, Roberts addresses questions about who the Uyghurs are and what their relationship with China has been like historically; how China’s systematic campaign to erase Uyghur identity and culture is linked to the global U.S.-led war on terror; the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies and how it contextualizes Uyghur responses to China’s violent policies; some suggestions for responding to this human tragedy; and his own experiences meeting and talking with Uyghurs and doing this research.

The book will appeal to anyone interested in the discourse on the war on terror and terrorism, Islam and Muslims in China, genocide studies, Chinese Studies, history, and generally anyone who wants to understand what’s happening with Uyghurs.

Shehnaz Haqqani is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Mercer University. Her primary research areas include Islam, gender, and interreligious marriage. She also vlogs on YouTube; her videos focus on dismantling the patriarchy and are available at: She can be reached at

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Shehnaz Haqqani

Shehnaz Haqqani is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Mercer University. She earned her PhD in Islamic Studies with a focus on gender from the University of Texas at Austin in 2018. Her dissertation research explored questions of change and tradition, specifically in the context of gender and sexuality, in Islam. She can be reached at

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