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Terror Capitalism: Uyghur 'Reeducation' and the Chinese Security Industrial complex

Monday, March 11, 2019 at 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Goldwin Smith Hall, G76
232 East Ave, Central Campus

"Terror Capitalism: Uyghur 'Reeducation' and the Chinese Security Industrial Complex" with Darren Byler, Lecturer, University of Washington.  Part of the East Asia Program, Cornell Contemporary China Initiative lecture series.

AbstractThe new system of control that targets Turkic minority populations in Northwest China has widespread implications for how humans experience their own existence, minority-majority social relations, and the expansion of authoritarian forms of capitalist development. This system, which is attempting to transform Uyghur and other Turkic minority societies, is made up of a multi-billion dollar industry of computer-vision technologies, militarized policing, and the mass mobilization of Chinese civil servants and Han industrialists. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the Uyghur homeland, this talk describes the history which produced these new forms of surveillance and demonstrates the quotidian experience of their effects in Uyghur society. It argues that this system of "reeducation" is, in fact, a social engineering system that works in concert with a Chinese form of illiberal capitalism. As it is implemented, it has the effect of partitioning and radically disempowering those already marginalized within national and international global systems. It shows that these new automated forms of surveillance, coercive Han-centric education systems, as well as new modes of state-enforced capitalist discipline amplify the power of those who engineer and implement these systems while rapidly disintegrating minority social systems. 

More about Darren Byler: Darren Byler received his PhD from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington in 2018. His research focuses on Uyghur dispossession, culture work and "terror capitalism" in the city of Ürümchi, the capital of Chinese Central Asia (Xinjiang). He has published research articles in Contemporary IslamCentral Asian Survey, the Journal of Chinese Contemporary Art and contributed essays to volumes on ethnography of Islam in China, transnational Chinese cinema and travel and representation. His analysis has appeared in TimeThe Economist and the Wall Street Journal among other publications. In addition, he has published Uyghur-English literary translations (with Mutellip Enwer) in Guernica and Paper Republic. He also writes and curates the digital humanities art and politics repository The Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia, which is hosted at

The Cornell Contemporary China Initiative brings leading figures from around the world to present at a weekly forum on issues crucial to our current world, and also is building an archive of resources on these topics.

This talk is part of the East Asia Program (EAP) | Cornell Contemporary China Initiative (CCCI) and is co-sponsored by the China and Asia-Pacific Studies Program(CAPS), The Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) and The Comparative Muslim Societies Program (CMSP)

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