Homeland, magnet, and refuge: Mecca in the travels and imaginaries of Chinese Muslims
Janice Hyeju Jeong – 2023
Mecca is often conceptualized as a destination for the ḥajj or a source of leverage for both western and Ottoman imperial states, and in the twentieth century, for Saudi national foreign policy and Islamist movements. While building on such transnational angles, this article views the city as a convergence point for diaspora populations, an intermediary site that has received and redirected the mobilities of sojourners, refugees, and exiles from different parts of Asia throughout the manifold turnovers of the twentieth century. The article focuses on a community of first- to third-generation settlers in the Hejaz who trace their other homes to different places in China proper. Using archival documents, travelogues, and ethnographic interviews, the article argues that the routes to Mecca, coupled with imaginaries of the city as a home place for Muslims worldwide, served as a rare constant orienting force that sustained two-directional mobilities of Chinese Muslim diasporas through the wars and revolutions of modern times.