Darren Byler, “Terror Capitalism: Uyghur Dispossession and Masculinity in a Chinese City” (Duke UP, 2022)

The continuing crisis in Xinjiang has, thanks to the work of many scholars and reporters, led to greatly increased awareness of the region’s history and Uyghur population among publics outside China. But so far less appreciated have been the specific ways in which the targeted regime of Uyghur imprisonment operates, and its creeping emergence over the course of the 2010s.

Darren Byler’s Terror Capitalism: Uyghur Dispossession and Masculinity in a Chinese City (Duke UP, 2022) is therefore a vital addition to our understanding of this emergency. Based on long-term fieldwork in Urumqi and elsewhere, this is a chilling and deeply moving portrait of processes of dispossession and ‘reeducation’ whose advance has intensified since the 2014 onset of what the Chinese government calls the ‘People’s War on Terror’. Combining ethnographic nuance with piercing insight into grand colonial processes, Byler both offers an encompassing theory of the technological, economic and political forces which have brought this situation about, and demonstrates its horrifying effects on ordinary people who face an unassailable edifice of state and corporate violence.

Ed Pulford is a Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Manchester. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and indigeneity in northeast Asia.

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