The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History: An Interview

In his fascinating new book, Rian Thum explores the craft, materiality, nature, and readership of Uyghur history over the past 300 years. The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History (Harvard University Press, 2014) argues that understanding Uyghur history in this way is crucial for understanding both Uyghur identity and continuing relationships with the Chinese state. Rather than writing a narrative of “Xinjiang,” Thum instead crafts his history as a story of the shifting spaces of Altishahr, an Uyghur name for “six cities” and a term “used by people who are denied the political power to draw maps.” In Thum’s hands, Altishahr ceases to be a frontier or marginal area: instead, it moves to the center along with the broader field of Uyghur history and historiography. To hear us talking about it for the New Books in East Asian Studies podcast, head over to this link!