Xinjiang ecoliterature by Uyghur and Kazakh Indigenes has historically emphasized embodied ties to place, marked by sacred routes through deserts in the southern Tarim Basin (Altishahr), or by landmarks along nomadic herding routes between summer and winter camps in the north (Dzungaria).
Yet contemporary writers often manifest psychic themes of dissociation, defamiliarization, and disorientation in works set in polluted cities or toxic villages.
This talk elaborates on themes in Questioning Borders: Ecoliteratures of China and Taiwan (Columbia UP, 2023), applying theories from Indigenous studies, urban ecology, and animal cultural studies. Visser argues that Indigenous writers in Xinjiang adapt longstanding sensitivities to the earth, to non-human animals, and to experiences of the sentient body in ways that foreground settler colonial relational toxicities vis-à-vis other humans, non-human animals, air, water, and land.
We have forgotten something that was originally in our bodies. We have forgotten that fragrant smell of mud, the kind that makes you close your eyes to relish it, that emanates after a rain, from grass, fields, and the mud walls in front of one’s home.
–Yerkesh Hulmanbek, Eternal Lamb
Part of the Indigeneity Across East Asian Literatures Speaker Series. Curated by Assistant Professor Nathan Vedal, Department of East Asian Studies