Aspiration, Masculinity and the City
July 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
Very insightful look at the tensions within contemporary Uyghur masculinity
Originally posted on the art of life in chinese central asia:
Hezriti Ali’s film short and music video “With Me”
Within the marriage market of the urban Uyghur community it has become almost a cliché to discuss the moral aptitude of young men in terms of their frequency of prayer. When introducing a potential boyfriend, the line given is “he prays five times a day” (Uy: u besh namazni jayida üteydu). Although this description often overlooks other moral failures such as drinking, smoking and general carousing, the overall connotation conveyed is “this guy is a good, responsible guy.” In the short film “With Me,” Hezriti Ali, another self-made migrant actor-muscian from the Southwest edge of the Taklamakan Desert, tackles this problem in an unusually subtle and implicit way.
In the ten minute narrative film which proceeds his performance of the song, Hezriti lays out the context which migrant young men face in the city. Since, as for all Chinese men, the first duty of sons (particularly, for Uyghurs, younger brothers) is to one’s parents, rather than to one’s wife and her family, underemployed strivers in the city are faced with a complex set of forces. They must simultaneously maintain an image of success vis-à-vis their rural home community (in the form of remittances), the circle of friends who form their wife’s chai circle (i.e. the social distinction of disposable income), their sense of autonomy among their male peers (i.e. drinking parties and/or Islamic/cultural functions with fellow migrants), while at the same time negotiating their place in Chinese society (i.e. a different set of drinking parties and/or Islamic functions with job providers). The common denominator at work in all these forces: money.