Drenched in Tears: Gender and Memory in the Uyghur Diaspora
Sandrine Emmanuelle Catris
In the PRC, the state controls the narrative on the history of the Cultural Revolution. This sanctioned history in many ways whitewashes this period by mostly focusing on the political history and by blaming the chaos of the CR on the "Gang of Four" and not on the myriad of teenagers and young men and women who participated in two years of turmoil. The history of the Cultural Revolution in Xinjiang has for the most part been muted, if not completely silenced, in the People's Republic of China. There have been very few avenues for Uyghurs, Tatars, and other non-Chinese inhabitants of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to discuss publicly in any format the period of the Cultural Revolution. This is even truer now than it was ten years ago as Uyghurs, but also other Muslim minority nationalities are facing increasing repressive policies. The Cultural Revolution holds a particular place in the historical memory of Xinjiang and of the PRC. This paper analyzes the ways in which memoirs published in the diaspora, in particular the memoirs by Haji Abdurräshid Kerimi, The Battle of Qaranjul, by Rebiya Kadeer, Dragon Fighter, and by Söyüngül Chanisheff, The Land Drenched in Tears, use the past as a tool for political activism in the present. These memoirs challenge the official narrative, while in many ways relying on it. Memoirs offer the illusion of authenticity, of the eyewitness, of the person who lived through a certain event and wants to share his or her story. All three of the memoirists discuss the urgency of telling "history" for future generation, and discuss their memoirs as a fulfillment of their duty and responsibility to the youth. The vast majority of the sources available for the Maoist period in China, and for the Cultural Revolution in Xinjiang, were written by men. Memoirs offer a gendered and politicized understanding of the Xinjiang and Uyghur past—only possible outside of the boundaries of the PRC.
Mongols, Uyghurs and Xinjiang