China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
More research is needed to address the implications of authoritarian governance on multiple scales. Given the surge in illiberalism around the world, it is crucial to explore the relationship between territorial control and economic development, especially for urban settings. This paper session seeks to further explore diverse terrains of “illiberal” geographies, including challenging the definitions of “state,” “territory,” “authoritarianism” and “illiberalism” itself. In combining theories of state power and urban development as applied to regional case studies, this paper session brings together scholars with fieldwork experience in and data from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. The papers discuss the implications of increasing state surveillance and policing on social life, urbanization, and development agendas in the capital city of the region, Urumqi. Specifically, the papers on this panel examine how the Chinese regime articulates territory at the urban scale in ethnic minority regions, through lenses such as policing, migration, city planning, surveillance, and economic development. Using a wide-range of methodologies, from ethnography to interviews to planning documents and government data analysis, the papers investigate modes of social control through confusion of the bureaucracy and fear of the police. The findings show the various influences of authoritarian power and economic development in the city across multiple scales from the body to neighborhood to city to region to nation-state. The objective is to apply theories of urbanism and territory to better understand the social and cultural implications of political control and economic exploitation of indigenous ethnic minorities in the region.