Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Marguerite Moritz

Second Advisor

Bella Mody

Third Advisor

Nabil Echchaibi

Fourth Advisor

Timothy Weston

Fifth Advisor

James Millward


Chinese media have seen a grand transformation since the 1980s. However, the relationship between Chinese media and its 56 ethnic minority groups is underresearched. This dissertation intends to contribute to this field by examining media and in the context of the Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people who reside in China’s far west Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Uyghurs number nine million, and consequently this research focuses on a sub-group of them: Minkaohan, who are ethnic Uyghurs who have attended Mandarin-language schools.

This dissertation examines the post 9/11 representation of Uyghurs in Chinese state media and shows how Minkaoahan react to these portrayals. By examining Minkaohan, we can better understand the degree to which Chinese media depicts or disregards complexity in its representations of Uyghurs and the meaning-making practices of Minkaohan. This dissertation also studies how Han Chinese in Xinjiang perceive Uyghurs in relation to media.

Based on a content analysis on four state newspapers and 38 in-depth interviews, this dissertation finds that Uyghurs are represented in China’s state media in a partial and biased way. The content analysis identifies an important shift in Uyghur representation after 9/11, corresponding to an increase in negative depictions of Uyghurs as more related to terrorism and a greater threat to China.

The in-depth interviews reveal that the state media frames are contested by both Uyghur and Han audiences. Minkaohan, as much as they consume state media content, reject the state-produced Uyghur representations. With the Internet, Minkaohan build a set of frames that are in direct competition with the dominant constructs. With regard to Han Chinese audiences, they reject state-media representation of Uyghurs too and refuse to endorse the state produced “terrorism” frame. This study of media and audience frames demonstrates the necessity of examining both media and audience frames in framing analysis, especially in an authoritarian context.