History and Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Fellowship : October 2013 to June 2014

Discipline(s) : Anthropology, History

Area(s) of expertise : Anthropology of Central Asia, Xinjiang and Turkey

Pays : Danemark

Research project: “Rulers and ruled between two civilisations: Uyghur agrarian communities in Eastern Xinjiang 18th- 21st centuries”

Situated on the edge of the Central Asian Islamic civilization, the Turkic speaking Uyghurs have over the last three centuries been progressively incorporated into another civilisation: the Chinese state and its successive mutations. This long process is incomplete to date, since the Uyghurs still resolutely hold on to their distinct identity. This is one of the main questions of this project: how can the Uyghurs be effectively integrated and yet retain their civilisational distinctiveness?

The focus of this project will be on the local perspective rather than on national history and top-down policies. Ways of adaptation and maintaining civilisational identity must be reconciled with strategies to ensure the survival of individuals and of the communities in which they are embedded. The multiple bonds of community can be explored through focusing ethnographically on ways in which social cohesion is perpetuated. Close observation also illuminates how the Uyghurs emphasize difference, displaying forms of resistance to the power perceived as external but also factionalism within the community, both at times of relative stability and rapid transition.

All these strategies are articulated in narratives about the self and the other, which are often overlooked by mainstream historians because apparently only of limited, local relevance. However, making local history the object of serious enquiry can contribute significantly to our understanding of the nature and enactment of alliances at higher levels, micro-macro interconnectedness, and civilizational encounters.


Ildikó Bellér-Hann received her MA at the Eötvös Lóránd University (Budapest, Hungary) in Turkish Studies, English, and Archaeology. She received her PhD in 1989 with a study on Turkic historical linguistics at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Cambridge, UK. She was a research assistant at the University Library in Cambridge, then a Curator of the Skilliter Centre in Newnham College Cambridge and she taught at the Faculty of Oriental Studies. She was Research Fellow fi rst at Cambridge in91–98 and then at the University of Kent (Canterbury) where she worked on major research projects on Turkey and Xinjiang (North-West China). In 1999 Ildikó Bellér-Hann took up a position at the Centre of Oriental Studies, Martin Luther University (Halle, Germany). In 2005 she completed her habilitation degree at the Humboldt University, Berlin, with a dissertation on the historical anthropology of the Uyghur in Xinjiang in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Since 2009 she has been working as Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), specializing in modern societies and cultures of West China and Central Asia.

Her research fi elds are historical and contemporary anthropology of Central Asia, Xinjiang and Turkey.

Major Publications

BÉLLER-HANN, Ildikó. The Bulldozer State: Chinese socialist development in Xinjiang. In Beyer, J., Rasanayagam, J. et Reeves, M. (ed.). Performing Politics in Central Asia: Ethnographies of the State. Indiana : Indiana University Press, 2013. p. 262-289.


BÉLLER-HANN, Ildikó. Feudal villains or just rulers? The contestation of historical narratives in Eastern Xinjiang. In Jacquesson, J. et Béller-Hann, I. (ed.) Local History as an Identity Discipline, Numéro special de Central Asian Survey. 2012, vol. 31(3), p. 311-325.


BELLÉR-HANN, Ildikó, Hann, C. Turkish Region; state, market and social identities on the East Black Sea coast. Oxford : James Currey, Santa Fe : SAR Press, 2000, 240 p.


BÉLLER-HANN, Ildikó. Making the Oil Fragrant: Dealings with the Supernatural among the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. In Mckerras, C. (ed.). Ethnic minorities in modern China. London : Routledge, 2011, p. 290-309. [réédition à partir de Asian Ethnicity, 2001. vol. 2 (1), p. 9–23]


BÉLLER-HANN, Ildikó. Community Matters in Xinjiang 1880-1949 : Towards a historical anthropology of the Uyghur. Leiden, Boston : Brill, 2008, 476 p. (coll. China Studies).