Recent musical studies have examined the role of musical performance in organizing specific cultural experiences that are indexed as national, modifying previous models of understanding the relationship between musical texts and nationalistic sentiments as primarily iconic and deductive. Following this line of inquiry, this talk focuses on the music of the Uyghur people—Turkic Muslims in northwest China,where they are often unwillingly one of the fifty-five recognized ethnic minorities—and looks at how musical performance is deeply engaged in the fashioning of a much suppressed minority nationalism. Based on extensive ethnographic research in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, this talk draws on musical examples from various traditional and popular styles to explore how nuances of minority nationhood are not only evoked but also complicated and contested in the process of musical performance in this uniquely controversial Central Asian borderland.
Chuen-Fung Wong is Assistant Professor of music at Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota, where he teaches world music and ethnomusicology. His research interests include race/ethnicity, modernity, and minority nationalism, focused particularly on the music of the Uyghur people in northwest China and Central Asia. Wong is editor and co-author of Listening
to Chinese Music (recently published by Commercial Press, Hong Kong). A recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, he is currently completing a book on Uyghur music and minority nationalism.