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Presentation "Conflicting Sites of Memory in Xinjiang: A Critical Reading of Heroines on Display" by Emily Mae Graf

News from Aug 27, 2021

Museums and sites of memory play a key role in commemorating, creating and disseminating narratives andimages of historical and legendary fi gures alike. This presentation approaches fi gures such as the Beauty ofLoulan 楼兰美女 of the famous Tarim Basin mummies dating back to 1800 BCE and the legendary Muslimconcubine Xiangfei 香妃, who is said to have lived in emperor Qianlong’s court and whose ‘tomb’ remainsone of the key sites of tourism in Kashgar today. In museum spaces and sites of commemoration,archaeological, and historical claims are often inextricably entangled with various, at times contradicting,mythical narratives, and legends. Based on observations at the sites and in the Xinjiang Uyghur AutonomousRegion Museum in Urumqi conducted in September 2019, this presentation off ers a critical reading of suchheroic fi gures both in the physical spatial context of the museum’s display and in the hierarchical context ofthe institutional landscape of museums in present-day PRC. It further draws on discourses of the heroines’reception and evaluation in scientifi c circles, public discourse, literary production, and artistic reproduction.Which narratives, voices, and institutions make demands on these fi gures and sites? Approaching these heroines as lieux de mémoire allows us not only to retrace confl icting memories solidifi ed in, among others,Manchu, Han, and Uyghur narratives but also reveals tensions within these narratives (Millward 1994), whichturn their sites of memory into highly contested spaces.

This talk has been part of a panel on Commemoration as a Form of Negotiating Historical Narratives organized by Kevin Bockholt for the 23rd Biennial Conference of the European Association for Chinese Studies (EACS).

Date: August 27, 2021

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