Anti-colonial friendship

Contemporary police violence, storytelling, and Uyghur masculinity

by DARREN BYLER

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In Northwest China, young Uyghur men foster friendships with one another as they flee colonial dispossession in their villages and migrate to the city. These friendships, which ultimately offer forms of protection in these migrants’ lives, are enacted through storytelling about colonial violence. Their storytelling is best understood as a processual staging of social life, one that holds in tension the violence of ethnoracialization and the palliative care of homosocial friendships. The stories of police brutality and job discrimination that these young men tell are an everyday enactment of the trauma staged in Uyghur-language fiction about colonial alienation—a narrative form that both inspires Uyghurs to tell their stories and, in turn, is inspired by that experience. In a similar way, storytelling and anti-colonial friendship can also pull ethnographers into relations of intersubjective obligation that shape their anthropological practice of listening and writing. In some contexts, then, anthropology itself can be regarded as the work of anti-colonial friendship. [dispossession, anti-colonial friendship, masculinity, storytelling, police, colonial violence, anthropology, Uyghur, China]