If you’ve been away for a while, one thing is immediately present in ErDaoQiao (the bazaar/Uyghur hub of town): stress. Anxiety. Everyone is struggling over scare resources, over the identity of this area of the city, on guard against the government, the police – a sort of stance between this group of Uyghurs and those, the old and the young, and all the different sub-identities within the Uyghur population. just within young women alone there are traditional women in shapeless denim dresses and full head coverings, the stylishly conservative in their bedazzled and glittering headscarves, swathed in long flowing fabric in the fashion of upper elite Arabic women, “modern girls” who dress like Lady Gaga if she came to fame in the eighties, and more subtle modern girls in jeans and loose, plain shirts, along with a half-dozen other subsets. It’s evident in the way people look at each other, intersect with each other, wrangle for space driving their cars on the sidewalk, bargain with each other – an entire struggle marked in the tones of their voice, in single glances.
If you’re in the area a lot (I came down two or three times a week before I got busy with the dance troupe up here), you start to forget. This tension and stress beings to seem a normal part of the backdrop. But if you come back after even a short break – it’s obvious this is a society I’ll at ease, a society running on tension with unresolved issues, issues that might again come to the forefront. But who knows.
Pingback: Oasis cities between Kasghar and Hotan – Toils and Troubles in Xinjiang Province