Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

John O'Loughlin

Second Advisor

Emily Yeh

Third Advisor

Timothy Oakes

Fourth Advisor

Jennifer Fluri

Fifth Advisor

Anna Secor


Authoritarian state power is often repressive and uneven, as well as ideological and material. The strikingly visible aspects of Chinese state power in Xinjiang overlook the invisible and nefarious aspects of the everyday violence of the nation-state working at the level of the neighborhood and everyday life. I use long-term ethnographic fieldwork to study some of the more invisible aspects of state power at the scale of the body, home, market, and neighborhood in everyday life. In drawing on observations of tight state control, I answer the questions: How does the state control territory, and how do people respond? What is the role of bureaucracy, policing, surveillance, displacement, and development in securing state territorial control? How do people experience and navigate state dispossession in the political, economic, cultural, and social spheres? In exploring these questions, I provide examples from Xinjiang to show how state building occurs in China and the results of state power on everyday life for ethnic minority and majority groups living in this autonomous region.

While the Chinese state maintains a significant presence in people’s lives in Xinjiang, I also emphasize the gaps in space and time of that presence. Specifically, I look at the effects of state power, especially how the multiplicity and complexity of state power is experienced when it comes to people’s daily tasks. I trace the effects of neighborhood governance and uneven development on everyday life in urban Xinjiang. I examine how individuals create social space in heavily regulated and securitized state space. State control permeates people’s lives in disruptive ways. Meanwhile, Uyghur cultural performances at the scales of the body and household reflect affiliation with the Muslim world that disrupt the national Chinese imaginary and the false assumption of territorial control as a static container.