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Slippery paths: The performance and canonization of Turkic literature and Uyghur muqam song in Islam and modernity
Indiana University, IN, USA.
1998 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the past forty years the fluid Uyghur muqam song tradition has been transformed into a cultural canon used to represent the Uyghur ethnic group within China and on the world stage. Traditional muqam performers have provided the magma of songs that scholars and politicians have edited into an invented "great tradition" which supports a Uyghur claim to an important piece world cultural history. The canonized Twelve Muqam tradition conforms to the international cultural logic of European modernity as it has been interpreted in China, and are now known as Uyghur khalq kilassik muzika (Uyghur folk classical music). I compare the adoption of the ideology of European modernity to the Turkic conversion to Islam, and consider the cultural representations that accompany these ideological transitions. The Uyghur Muqam cultural canon formed in response to modernity's demand that ethnic identities be closely tied to distinctive shared cultural forms and cultural histories. Likewise, when the Islamization of the Turks began a millenium ago, the Turkic lexicographer Mahmud al-Kashghari created a canon of pure Turk culture and the poets Yusuf Khass Hajib and Ahmad Yuknaki attempted to found a didactic Turko-Islamic literary tradition based in oral Turkic genres. My analysis compares how these and other Turkic literary compositions resolved conflicts around cultural identities within the complex historical contexts of Central Asia. I treat these literary forms as contextualized performances and show how their authors used oral elements to accomplish their ideological goals. In comparing Turkic Islam and Uyghur Modernity I disrupt the continuities and discontinuities through which modernist scholarship maps its narrative of the past. My goal is to move away from the narratives of progress and exceptionalism which defend European modernity as unparalleled cultural attainment but condemn Communist cultural policies as a perversion of modernity's democratic ideals. Distancing myself from the moral polarities of modernity, I immerse myself in the historical predicament of the present-day muqam performer Omur Akhun. Despite his deep knowledge of muqam tradition he has been marginalized as a performer because he will not tame the slippery muqams to fixed texts and secular conservatories. Modern Chinese and Uyghur canonizers reject connections to "foreign" Arabic and Persian culture and the improvisatory creation of songs from pieces of music and pieces of poetry.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Ann Arbor: ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing , 1998. , 512 p.
Keyword [en]
Folklore, Song, Islam, Muqam, Modernity, Language, literature and linguistics, Social sciences, Turkic, Canonization, Middle Eastern literature, Uyghur, Performance, China, Asian literature
National Category
Specific Literatures Social Anthropology
Research subject
Turkic languages; Literature; History of Religions
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-201640OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-201640DiVA: diva2:628922

Dissertation/Thesis. Indiana University, Bloomington.

Available from: 2013-06-20 Created: 2013-06-13 Last updated: 2013-06-20Bibliographically approved

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