2013 Bestor Prize: Lesley R. Turnbull, Cornell University

turnbull-SD_madrassaIn Pursuit of Islamic “Authenticity”: Localizing Muslim Identity on China’s Peripheries

This essay is an ethnographic examination of the self-production of Hui-Muslim identities in Kunming, in light of state-defined nationality. With great attention to detail and a methodical pursuit of question and answers, Turnbull drew out the narratives of interlocutors and analyzed them deeply to show how claims to authenticity are shaped by the localization of an idealized Islamic tradition and Chinese modernity. For non-specialists, Turnbull was also able to contextualize interview material within a presentation of broader knowledge of specific topics. While there may have been lots of ‘imaginings’ going on by people in Kunming and Shadian, or by Beijing bureaucrats or Middle Eastern imams, Turnbull’s analysis is a convincingly written essay on the complex reality of identity politics.

2013 Bestor Prize Committee

Amy Borovoy, Chair
Fuji Lozada
Rebecca Ruhlen