A new system of control, made up of a multi-billion dollar industry of computer-vision technologies, militarized policing, and the mass mobilization of Chinese civil servants and Han industrialists, is attempting to transform Uyghur and other Turkic minority societies in Northwest China. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the Uyghur region, this talk describes the history which produced these forms of surveillance and demonstrates the quotidian experience of their effects in Uyghur society. It argues that this system of "reeducation" is, in fact, a social engineering system that works in concert with a Chinese form of illiberal capitalism. As it is implemented, it has the effect of partitioning and radically disempowering those already marginalized within national and international global systems. It shows that these new automated forms of surveillance, coercive Han-centric education systems, as well as new modes of state-enforced capitalist discipline amplify the power of those who engineer and implement these systems while rapidly disintegrating minority social systems.
Darren Byler received his PhD from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington in 2018. His research focuses on Uyghur dispossession, culture work and "terror capitalism" in the city of Ürümchi, the capital of Chinese Central Asia (Xinjiang). He has published research articles in the Asia-Pacific Journal, Contemporary Islam, Central Asian Survey, the Journal of Chinese Contemporary Art and contributed essays to volumes on ethnography of Islam in China, transnational Chinese cinema and travel and representation. He has provided expert testimony on Uyghur human rights issues before the Canadian House of Commons and writes a regular column on these issues for SupChina. In addition, he has published Uyghur-English literary translations (with Mutellip Enwer) in Guernica and Paper Republic. He also writes and curates the digital humanities art and politics repository The Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia, which is hosted at livingotherwise.com.