Practical Responses

The reading included an anecdote illustrating how the differences between ethnic groups in Xinjiang are often not immediately visible, despite attempts to maintain clear ideological boundaries. As the story went, children at play accidentally kicked a ball into the street, and called to a passing student, "Hey Han, would you get the ball?" but the student simply responded with "I am a Tungan," and moved on.1

At this point, the professor called attention to the anecdote, attempting to elicit an explanation from the class. There came an expected chorus of mumbled about indistinct features separating each group, a morality tale about not making assumptions about a stranger's backgrounds, maintained ethnic pride, until I pointed out that the Tungans are Muslim, therefore the Tungan child was unlikely to touch a ball that might have been an inflated pig's bladder.

When living in an environment of celebrated integration, it becomes easy to forget that separations of groups exist as more than just names.

1. Rudelson, Justin; Oasis Identities

24 February 2014 19:06

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