Under the Heel of the Dragon:
Islam, Racism, Crime, and the Uighur in China

Blaine Kaltman

Ohio University Press 2007
A book review by Danny Yee © 2009 https://dannyreviews.com/
Based on interviews with Han and Uighur in Beijing, Urumqi, Shanghai and Shenzen, Under the Heel of the Dragon explores attitudes, prejudices and stereotypes in Han-Uighur relations.

Kaltman compares the attitudes of the two groups to language ability and education, employment and social inequality, Uighur religious observance, and national identity (notably the forthcoming Olympic Games). He looks at racism, the stigmatization of Uighur as criminals, and the acceptability of inter-ethnic relationships (Han are more accepting of their sons crossing ethnic boundaries, Uighur of their daughters). And he investigates motivations for migration and crime. With the exception of a small number of professionals and assimilated second and third generation migrants in Beijing, most Uighur "have rejected the goals of the dominant Han society".

The approach in Under the Heel of the Dragon is informal: as well as long passages from interviews, Kaltman includes some travelogue-style descriptions of locations and street life. The only quantitative data are three pages at the end with the results from a structured questionnaire, but Kaltman himself acknowledges the limitations of these given the non-random sample they are based on. And there is no attempt to present underlying socioeconomic data — there are no figures for mosque attendance, crime rates, and so forth.

Though it is nowhere stated, Kaltman presumably doesn't speak Uighur, since his fluency in Mandarin is mentioned. This gives him at least a linguistic bias — an inability, or limited ability, to sample the opinions of Uighur who can't or choose not to speak Mandarin. And it may help explain one of his closing recommendations:

"As a first step on the road toward getting the Uighur to accept the goals of Han society, the Chinese government could consider implementing a high-quality mandatory education program for Uighur children starting in prekindergarten and continuing through high school with a focus on Mandarin-language assimilation."

The strength of Under the Heel of the Dragon is that it offers the perspective of an outsider who isn't entangled in local disputes, and who seems to have some skill at getting people talking. It is hardly rigorous and one wouldn't want to rest too much on it, but it does give a feel for inter-ethnic relations between the Han majority and one of China's largest minority groups.

November 2009

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Related reviews:
- James A. Millward - Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang
- books about Central Asia + Mongolia
- books about China + Chinese history
- more sociology
%T Under the Heel of the Dragon
%S Islam, Racism, Crime, and the Uighur in China
%A Kaltman, Blaine
%I Ohio University Press
%D 2007
%O paperback, bibliography, index
%G ISBN 089680254X
%P 150pp