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Interviews with Exiles: ethics, poetics, and afterlives  
Rachel Harris (SOAS University of London)
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Xavier Hallez (Institut français d'études sur l'Asie centrale (IFEAC))
Madeleine Reeves (University of Oxford)
Anthropology & Archaeology
207 (Floor 2)
Friday 7 June, -
Time zone: Asia/Almaty


Since the upsurge in state repression in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in 2017, Uyghur, Kazakh and other Turkic Muslim exiles have been at times overwhelmed by approaches from journalists, rights organisations, activists and anthropologists who have asked them to act as witnesses to the violent upheavals of their homeland, often by recalling traumatic memories of harassment, detention, and the rupture of family ties. This panel brings a much-needed critical and reflexive lens to the methodologies, encounters, and engagements involved in ethnographic and other forms of interviews with exiles, and the consequences for interviewee and interviewer which flow from the production and circulation of interview-based texts and media items within this difficult terrain.

The panel will present a series of case studies drawn from recent experiences of interviews with exiles from XUAR, bringing these case studies into conversation with debates in anthropology around modes of knowledge production and the ideological constructions of “truth-telling” (Briggs 2007). We ask how interviewing practices produce subjects and objects, knowledge and authority. We draw on discussions in sound studies of “genres of listening” (Kapchan 2017), the ways that they orient the listener in particular affective directions, and perform different kinds of aesthetic and political work. We engage with recent writing on “dialogic ethnography” and the importance of accounting for context and relationships under conditions of authoritarian rule (Makley 2018). Finally, we consider the focus in critical race studies on practices of “refusal” (Campt 2019), and reflect on how activists and ethnographers working with marginalised and precarious communities in Central Asian contexts can respond to this call. Our discussions will explore the notions of reciprocity involved in these exchanges, as well as questions around research ethics and the difficult boundaries between research, activism and human engagement.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Friday 7 June, 2024, -