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Consuming identities: the culture and politics of food among the Uyghur in contemporary Xinjiang

Cesaro, Maria Cristina (2002) Consuming identities: the culture and politics of food among the Uyghur in contemporary Xinjiang. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86046) (KAR id:86046)


This research is a study of food and identity among the Uyghur, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people who live in the north-western region of Xinjiang (Chinese Central Asia) and are today one of the largest minorities in the People's Republic of China. It is based on fieldwork carried out from May 1996 to September 1997 among Uyghur urban intellectuals in Urilmchi, the provincial capital of Xinjiang. The underlying argument is that food, in all its related practices, is a powerful form of identity creation and maintenance. Through the preparation, the exchange, and the consumption of food social relationships are created, rules of inclusion and exclusion are established, boundaries are negotiated and maintained. In a context of volatile relations between the Uyghur Muslim minority and the dominant Han Chinese population, food represents a fundamental resource available to Uyghur intellectuals, who find themselves at the vanguard of both assimilation and differentiation and are currently engaged in a difficult process of negotiation and affirmation of their distinctive identity. In this context, food becomes a privileged arena for negotiation, providing an excellent vantage point to explore the dynamic and complex nature of social and cultural interaction in contemporary Xinjiang. In particular, the same tension between differentiation and assimilation is at work in the realm of food. If, on the one hand, a narrative of continuity, tradition, and discrete identities can be detected in the way Uyghurs talk and write about their food, on the other hand practices as well as discourses also show the syncretic nature of a culinary tradition.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86046
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Food habits, Uyghur, China
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GR Folklore
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:26 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 19:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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