Realising Eurasia. Empire and Connectivity during Three Millennia
Taking Jack Goody’s thesis of Eurasian commonalities as its point of departure, the paper explores indigenous perspectives of transregional connectivities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China, a region quintessentially representative of “Silk Road” imagery and civilizational encounters. The subject is approached through a close reading and analysis of selected texts published in 2012 in Uyghur in a biographical dictionary that celebrates outstanding personalities who lived and worked in the oasis of Qumul in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The biographies of scholars, educators, religious dignitaries, merchants and craftsmen that span pre-socialist and socialist eras form a régime d’historicité. This régime reveals a great deal not only about the representation and position of these individuals in the wider Turkic-speaking Muslim society but also about the multi-scalar spatial construction of ethnohistory. Above the level of the oasis, the most significant scales addressed are those of the region (Xinjiang or province), the nation-state (China), and the transnational (in particular the Muslim world). This integration of the micro-level with the global enables local history to challenge taken for granted meta-narratives. This approach generates new insights into emic taxonomies as well as into the complex relationship between diachrony and synchrony.