List of academics on Xinjiang

Last updated: September 2021

The following is a running, incomplete list of academics specializing in China as it relates to Islam, Central Asia, terrorism, ethnic minority policy, and/or Uyghurs and Xinjiang. Most have formal works published and/or highly cited in English, though this is not generally true of denialists listed here, who largely lack expertise in the region.

There are, of course, Chinese scholars with expertise on Xinjiang. An unfortunate byproduct of an authoritarian system that tolerates only a unified stance on controversial state policy, however, is that it is much more difficult to take relevant scholars' work in good faith. That is not to say we can write it all off, but having spent a fair amount of time examining PRC scholars' work on Xinjiang (see here, for example)—uniformly laudatory of the state's actions—I am comfortable concluding that there is no serious independence among them when it comes to the issue. Academic freedom does not extend to questioning fundamental assumptions made by the state. They are thus excluded from this list.

The backgrounds of the people listed below are otherwise varied, as are their political orientations—ranging from socialist and communist to staunchly conservative—but if you're an adult who is able to tolerate the idea that sometimes people you disagree with can still produce significant research worth reading, that shouldn't be a problem. Those who support current Chinese policy (or deny widespread human rights violations) in Xinjiang are highlighted in blue; those opposed, in red.

  • Elise Marie Anderson earned PhDs in Eurasian Studies and Ethnomusicology, focusing on Uyghur music and culture in particular. She has conducted research in Xinjiang and is now an activist with the Uyghur Human Rights Project. In December 2020, she published an essay based on her most recent visit to Xinjiang. (Twitter: @AndersonEliseM)
  • David Brophy is senior lecturer in Chinese history at the University of Sidney and author of Uyghur Nation: Reform and Revolution on the Russia-China Frontier. I highly recommend his 2018 essay about Xinjiang in Jacobin. (Twitter: @Dave_Brophy)
  • Darren Byler is an assistant professor of International Studies at Simon Fraser University. Byler conducted extensive fieldwork for his doctorate, granted in 2018, in Xinjiang during the early years of the current crackdown. Byler's 2019 article, "Spirit Breaking: Capitalism and Terror in Northwest China", is a condensed version of his 300-page dissertation. (Twitter: @dtbyler)
  • Julie Yu-Wen Chen is a professor of Asian Studies at the University of Helsinki, focusing on minority politics in China. She authored The Uyghur Lobby: Global Networks, Coalitions and Strategies of the World Uyghur Congress. (Twitter: @julieyuwenchen)
  • Michael Clarke is an associate professor at Australian National University specializing in the history and politics of Xinjiang. He is the author of Xinjiang and China’s Rise in Central Asia – A History and lead author/editor of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in China: Domestic and Foreign Policy Dimensions. (Twitter: @meclarke114)
  • Radhika Desai is a professor of political science at the University of Manitoba whose research focuses on neoliberalism and contemporary capitalism. She moderated a panel of denialists and is generally sympathetic to the Chinese state's view of Xinjiang. (Twitter: @RadDesai)
  • Jérôme Doyon is a lecturer at Oxford's School of Global and Area Studies. Doyon authored a book on Islam in Jiangsu in 2014, Négocier la place de l'islam chinois: Les associations islamiques de Nankin à l'ère des réformes. A short article of his on the evolution of counterterrorism policy and rhetoric in Xinjiang can be read here. (Twitter: @doyon_jerome)
  • Dennis Etler is a professor of anthropology at Gavilan College, a junior college in California. He has done archaeological tours in China, but he does not have specific experience studying Uyghur culture. He has written articles for PRC state media. (Personal website here)
  • Magnus Fiskesjö is an associate professor of anthropology at Cornell University. His writings about the Xinjiang crisis have drawn condemnation from the PRC Embassy in Sweden. (Twitter: @Magnus_Fiskesjo)
  • Joshua L. Freeman is a historian and researcher at Princeton whose doctorate dissertation focused on the genesis of Uyghur national identity in the 20th century. He often translates Uyghur poetry on his Twitter account (@jlfreeman6).
  • Dru C. Gladney is a professor of anthropology at Pomona College with extensive experience in western China. Gladney is the author of Dislocating China: Muslims, Minorities, and Other Subaltern Subjects. (Twitter: @DruGladney)
  • Timothy Grose is an associate professor of Chinese Studies at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology who has spent several years living and researching in Xinjiang. He regularly publicizes Mandarin evidence related to mass incarceration and reeducation through his Twitter (@GroseTimothy). Grose recently published Negotiating Inseparability in China: The Xinjiang Class and the Dynamics of Uyghur Identity; you can read an interview with him about it here.
  • Rohan Gunaratna is on here (and highlighted in yellow) despite not having ever written about the camps in Xinjiang because he is frequently cited by denialists, including the Qiao Collective, for his work regarding the threat of Salafism in China. This is puzzling, given Gunaratna's track record of extensive support for the War on Terror; see this 2003 critique of his stance for an overview of some of his more outrageous claims. He is a professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University. (University page here)
  • Rachel A. Harris is a professor of ethnomusicology at SOAS University of London and author of the recent book Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam. I highly recommend her essay "Islamophobia, the Global War on Terror, and China’s policies in Xinjiang" from December 2020. (Twitter: @Rachel_A_Harris)
  • Michael Heinrich is on this list because of his bemusing elevation as a voice on Xinjiang by Chinese state media. He teaches German at a university in Beijing, and lauded the improvements in education in Xinjiang that he learned of, and I quote, "based on his interactions with one student from Xinjiang in his class." That was the basis of a full article by CGTN in April 2020. That same month, the distinguished German teacher published an article titled, and again I quote, "Educational situation of Xinjiang Uygur Muslims has got improved" in China Daily.
  • Kevin Kind is a PhD candidate in History at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in late Qing history in Xinjiang. He has lived in Xinjiang and discussed his observations of the security state and his own contacts going missing here.
  • Joshua Landis is a professor at the University of Oklahoma who specializes in the Middle East and Syria. He is also a nonresident fellow at the Quincy Institute in D.C. Landis came under fire from colleagues after tweeting a Grayzone article portraying concern of the situation in Xinjiang as purely the product of far-right media. The tweet has now been deleted, and Landis has elsewhere tweeted that what is happening in Xinjiang amounts to the "destroying [of] a people's culture" but not outright genocide. (Twitter: @joshua_landis)
  • James Leibold is an associate professor of politics and philosophy at La Trobe University who specializes in Tibetan and Uyghur issues in China. (Twitter: @jleibold)
  • Stefanie Kam Li Yee is a Ph. D. student at Australian National University and researcher at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore specializing in terrorism and China. (RSIS page here)
  • James Millward is an assistant professor of history at Georgetown University and author of Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. With Dahlia Peterson, Millward authored this report for the Brookings Institution, "China's System of Oppression in Xinjiang: How it Developed and How to Curb it". (Twitter: @JimMillward)
  • Mizutani Naoko (水谷尚子) is an associate professor at the Research Institute for Contemporary China of Meiji University and a major scholar of Uyghur culture in Japan. She authored an book in Japanese on the persecution and excile of prominent Uyghurs (中国を追われたウイグル人: 亡命者が語る政治弾圧). (Meiji page here, in Japanese)
  • Raffaello Pantucci is a researcher focusing on counterterrorism in China and Central Asia, currently a fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies in London. (Twitter: @raffpantucci)
  • Sean R. Roberts is a cultural anthropologist and professor at George Washington University. He has spent a substantial amount of time in Xinjiang, and in 1996 produced a documentary entitled Waiting for Uighurstan. He recently published a book on the crisis in Xinjiang, The War on the Uyghurs. (Twitter: @robertsreport)
  • Guldana Salimjan is a current research fellow in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies at Simon Fraser University. She is Kazakh. As a graduate student under the pseudonym Yi Xiaocuo, she ran, which "aims document lived experience, trauma, and resistance" of Turkic Muslims through art. (old Twitter: @YXiaocuo; SFU page here)
  • Barry Sautman is a controversial academic noted for his longstanding defense of Chinese policy in Tibet, and, more recently, Xinjiang. He has spent most of his career as a professor of social science at Hong Kong University of Science & Technology. Of academics with research experience on ethnic minority policy in China, Sautman is the by far the most cited denialist. He has not published specifically on the ongoing crisis, but has previously argued in published work arguing against the view of Xinjiang as an internal colony, for example.
  • Eric T. Schluessel is an assistant professor of modern Chinese history at George Washington University with extensive knowledge of Central Asia. Schluessel's most recent book, Land of Strangers, is an account of the project of assimilation embarked upon by the Qing dynasty during its rule over Xinjiang. (Twitter: @EricTSchluessel)
  • Joanne Smith-Finley is a lecturer in Chinese studies at Newcastle University who conducted fieldwork in Xinjiang for her PhD. She has written and testified extensively about the ongoing crisis, and an essay on her last trip to Xinjiang, in summer 2018, can be read here. She is the author of The Art of Symbolic Resistance: Uyghur Identities and Uyghur–Han Relations in Contemporary Xinjiang. (Twitter: @j_smithfinley)
  • Mobashra Tazamal is a researcher specializing in Islamophobia at Georgetown University. (Twitter: @mobbiemobes)
  • Rian Thum is a research fellow at the University of Nottingham and associate professor of history at Loyal University of New Orleans. He is the author of The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History. Thum's fieldwork and research on the destruction of Uyghur cultural heritage sites is summarized in this open access article. (Twitter: @RianThum)
  • David Tobin is a researcher at the University of Manchester with specialty in China's ethnic minorities. He is the author of Securing China's Northwest Frontier: Identity and Insecurity in Xinjiang. His doctoral thesis analyzed “identity politics of the Chinese party-state's nation-building project in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” (Twitter: @ReasonablyRagin)
  • Sarah Tynen earned their PhD from UC-Boulder in 2019, having lived and conducted fieldwork in China for half a decade, including two years in Xinjiang. Their thesis ("Uneven State Territorialization: Governance, Inequality, and Survivance in Xinjiang, China") fieldwork involved interviews with 66 Han Chinese and 98 Uyghurs. (Personal website here)
  • Adrian Zenz is the highly influential (and controversial; he is the most frequently denigrated of this list by Chinese state media) anthropologist whose work has been instrumetal in uncovering the dimensions of mass incarceration, forced labor, and other aspects of the repression campaign in Xinjiang. Zenz is a researcher at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a right-wing think tank. (Twitter: @adrianzenz)