The Turkistanis of Mecca: community histories of periphery and center

Rian Thum, Huda Abdul Ghafour Amin Kashgary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article presents a case study of one family’s exile from the Tarim Basin, where the relatives they left behind are now known as ‘Uyghurs,’ to the Mecca region, where the exiles regard themselves as ‘Turkistanis.’ This case is then examined in the context of other exilic families’ oral histories and narrative strategies to show an ongoing process of Turkistani identity formation and history production that seeks to accommodate personal and community histories of varied vintages and origins. Localized histories of early exiles mix with nationalist histories brought by later arrivals; family documents rub elbows with a hagiographical novel; and Turkistanis who see their community as unitary confront more recent ideas that some families are ‘Uyghurs’ and some are ‘Uzbeks.’ Together these form an eclectic whole that addresses the unusual position of a people who have been exiled from a place that much of the world views as a periphery to one that they themselves view as center.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-207
Number of pages20
JournalAsian Ethnicity
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


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