RESEARCH JOURNAL


"NO ONE CAN TAKE
WHO WE ARE"

Arfiya Eri, Georgetown University

EXCERPT


"This land is our heritage. This land is our home. No one can take away who we are." These were the words of my former student, a young Uighur boy living in Urumqi. The statement arose after I suggested a new discussion topic to the Advanced English class I instructed: Uighur identity in Xinjiang. As I asked one Uighur girl about her views on vanishing Uighur culture, she said, "Wo keyi yong zhongwen huida ma?" (Can I answer in Chinese?) "You're Uighur aren't you?" I asked. "Shi" (Yes), she replied—again in Chinese. "Then, can we try to communicate in our own language?" As I proposed this new challenge for her, an expression of subtle fear crept across her face. "I'm really bad at Uighur," she said. "I've studied in Chinese schools all my life. I can't speak it."

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