Cultural Adaptation of Uighur and Dungan Migrant Communities in Kyrgyzstan

The principal aim of this project is to carry out Ph.D research regarding the historical construction of social space and identity narratives in the inter-ethnic context of Eastern Kyrgyzstan during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Specifically, I intend to study the cultural exchanges and adaptations by which Uighur and Dungan (Muslim Hui) peoples established their territorial identities in the region of Yssyk-köl following various migratory displacements, which brought them together at various moments between the 1870s and 1960s. In particular, I am interested in reconstructing the forms of self-representation among, 1) those Dungan groups who arrived in 1878 from the Chinese region of Gansu and founded the town of Yrdyk (about 15 km from the township of Karakol, capital of Yssyk-köl Province), and 2) the Uighur inhabitants of the region around Karakol, who have had a longer and more complex pattern of migrations and settlement across this area.

One of the main objectives of this research is to problematise existing ideas regarding the perceived ease with which Dungan, Uighur, and other ethnic groups are able to adapt to a multi-ethnic setting in a quasi-national context of shifting territorial identities. On a broader theoretical level, this analysis aims at contributing fresh insights and methods for the study of migrant communities and so-called stateless societies.

The setting for this study will be the Ak-Suu district in the Yssyk-köl Province, particularly the settlements of Yrdyk and Karakol. The subject of my project will be those groups with origins in China who migrated within the past century and a half to multi-ethnic regions in Central Asia. I am interested in the Dungan population who originated in Gansu as well as in Uighur migrants who came from Xinjiang. Both groups arrived in the region of study as a result of forced displacements provoked, respectively, by the Muslim rebellions in China (1862-1877) and the founding of the PRC (1949).

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