Connecting Saudi Arabia to China’s new Silk Road through the Hajj: Local infrastructures, multiple imaginations of the global Ummah, and the Hui in Xi’an, China

Authors: Yang Yang*, University of Colorado at Boulder
Topics: China, Religion, Political Geography
Keywords: China, Saudi Arabia, Hajj, Hui, the Silk Road
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper seeks to understand how encounters and engagements between China and Saudi Arabia under the Belt and Road initiatives (the BRI) are realized through Hui Muslims’ participation in the annual Hajj sponsored by the Chinese government. Scholarship on China’s participation in the global Hajj has primarily addressed the diplomatic negotiations between China and Saudi Arabia and the state intervention in controlling the Hajj through secular law and institutional regulations at the national level. However, less is known on how the politics of pilgrimage is played out locally within urban Muslim communities in China, especially the anticipated and unintended outcomes and effects of the Hajj experienced by Muslim participants. Therefore, this paper focuses on the case of Hui Muslims in Xi’an and their experiences in the Hajj through an infrastructural lens to move beyond the dichotomy of understanding the Hajj as either a top-down or bottom-up process. An infrastructural approach emphasizes how activities, practices, and technologies are engaged in relation to each other as a constellation within specific social and political settings. Specifically, how do some local infrastructural configurations premised on biological and political security and the Hui’s involvement in these configurations contribute to multiple imaginations of Mecca within the Muslim community in Xi’an? By understanding the Hui’s engagement in the Hajj in Xi’an, this paper shows that the religious pilgrimage as both a form of state efforts in consolidating the China-Saudi strategic alliance and alternative forms of expressing Chinese Muslims’ connections to the global Ummah.

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