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RAI Research Seminar: Rachel Harris

May 15 2019 @ 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm



Revitalising Uyghur Intangible Cultural Heritage in China and Kazakhstan 

Dr Rachel Harris, SOAS

Wednesday 15 May at 5.30 pm

Among the Uyghurs, Meshrep gatherings play a prominent role in modern imaginings of national identity, and in local processes of community making. Meshrep are sites for acts of reciprocity, for the transmission of social rules and norms, and contexts within which community is enacted through forms of expressive culture. In this lecture I reflect on the inscription of Meshrep on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, and provides a critique of China’s approach to intangible cultural heritage initiatives in the contested Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

By way of alternative, I introduce a new approach to revitalising Meshrep – a project now underway in collaboration with with Uyghur community leaders, academics and musicians in neighbouring Kazakhstan. Key to our approach is a move away from showcasing heritage in the form of staged song and dance performance, and instead focusing on its role as a socially embedded practice. Our project approaches revitalising Meshrep within the marginalised Uyghur communities of Kazakhstan with view to strengthening community organisation by restoring the role of Meshrep as a medium for forging lasting bonds within the community, a mechanism for the transmission of language and expressive culture, and a forum for discussion, planning and social action.

Bio: Rachel Harris is Reader in the Music of China and Central Asia, and Research Co-ordinator for the School of Arts at SOAS, University of London. Her research focuses on musical life in China’s Muslim borderlands. She has co-edited several volumes including the music textbook Pieces of the Musical World (2015) and Theory and Practice in the music of the Islamic world (2017), and she currently edits the Routledge SOAS Musicology Series. She also works with various outreach and applied projects relating to Central Asian and Chinese music. She led the Leverhulme Research Project ‘Sounding Islam in China’ (2014-2017) and is now working on a new monograph Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam. She is currently working with Turan University in Kazakhstan on a British Academy Sustainable Development Project to revitalise Uyghur cultural heritage in the diaspora.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to https://rairachelharris.eventbrite.co.uk

Location : Royal Anthropological Institute
50 Fitzroy Street
United Kingdom


May 15 2019
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Event Category: