What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘the Uyghurs’

Back street in Urumqi, September 2013

Back street in Urumqi, September 2013

Firstly, apologies to Raymond Carver for being yet another desecrator of his great title.

Secondly- this is the title of my latest piece on Xinjiang, which is in the Summer issue of Dissent mag.

The Death of Old Kashgar

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I went back to Kashgar, in southern Xinjiang, in September last year for the first time in 13 years. In 2000 it was a place that I was sorry to leave; I didn’t feel the same this time. More words and pictures about that can be found at Unmapped, a new travel magazine that’s publishing the kinds of pieces that are in short supply: well-written, insightful reports from places that the news agenda doesn’t seem concerned about.

The many trials of Mr Horse

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My new essay on knowing a Chinese James Bond is in the new issue of The Dublin Review

This is how it starts:

Everyone in Shaoyang Teachers’ College said Mr Ma had been a spy. If this was supposed to be a secret, it was badly kept. When I first met him, in 1999, Mr Ma was in his mid thirties. He wore black glasses with thick lenses; his hair was in retreat; there was frequently a look of astonishment on his face. He was bashful, polite, prone to excessive laughter. But the fact that he didn’t look or act like a spy only made the rumours more plausible. It meant that he had been a good spy.

‘Medieval Lifestyle’

A mining project in Xilinhaote, Inner Mongolia

A mining project in Xilinhaote, Inner Mongolia

Isobel Yeung, who works for CCTV, China’s state broadcaster, recently wrote a piece for The Independent in which she argued that the Western media are misrepresenting China’s policies towards ethnic minorities in Inner Mongolia. She argued that the government aren’t trying to destroy the culture of nomadic herders by moving them into cities- they just want to improve their ‘medieval lifestyle’. Here’s my response to this in The Independent.

Buttering the Tiger

My essay on Chinese factories and corruption is in the latest issue of  The Dublin Review, along with an interesting piece about being a fake priest in Japan. I originally wrote this as the middle section of my LARB piece, but it ended up breaking free from that and hopefully works fine on its own.

The DR is one of the few magazines still interested in publishing longform pieces about foreign countries that aren’t based around conflict or suffering. As such, it deserves our support. A 4 issue subscription costs £36.

I’d also like to thank the gone, but not forgotten, and very much missed Scottish Arts Council for helping to fund the trip to China that led to the LARB piece, the  DR piece, and the afterword of The Tree That Bleeds.

Jumping the Dragon Gate

 

My piece on two of my former students is now up at the Los Angeles Review of Books, and features kidnapping, a cow’s vagina,’Peter Burger’ and the house of wasps. I may, perhaps, have burnt some bridges by writing this piece- in which case, dear bridges, I’m sorry. There was so much kindling I could not resist.

You can see accompanying photos here.

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