The Chinese Communist Party points to the Hui—China’s largest Muslim ethnic group—as a model ethnic minority and touts its harmonious relations with the group as an example of the Party’s great success in ethnic politics. The Hui number over ten million, but they lack a common homeland or a distinct language, and have long been partitioned by sect, class, region, and language. Despite these divisions, they still express a common ethnic identity. Why doesn’t conflict plague relationships between the Hui and the state? And how do they navigate their ethnicity in a political climate that is increasingly hostile to Muslims?
Pure and True draws on interviews with ordinary urban Hui—cooks, entrepreneurs, imams, students, and retirees—to explore the conduct of ethnic politics within Hui communities in the cities of Jinan, Beijing, Xining, and Yinchuan and between Hui and the Chinese party-state. By examining the ways in which Hui maintain ethnic identity through daily practices, it illuminates China’s management of relations with its religious and ethnic minority communities. It finds that amid state-sponsored urbanization projects and in-country migration, the boundaries of Hui identity are contested primarily among groups of Hui rather than between Hui and the state. As a result, understandings of which daily habits should be considered “proper” or “correct” forms of Hui identity diverge along professional, class, regional, sectarian, and other lines. By channeling contentious politics toward internal boundaries, the state is able to manage ethnic politics and exert control.
David R. Stroup is lecturer in Chinese politics at the University of Manchester.
Stevan Harrell is professor emeritus of anthropology and environmental and forest sciences at the University of Washington. His many books include Ways of Being Ethnic in Southwest China.
"[A]n excellent book written against all odds."
~International Journal of Asian Studies
"Stroup does a fabulous job personalizing his subjects while keeping a professional distance from them. He also grounds his observations in history, rooting his research not only in the field of Hui studies but in the history of urban development in China more broadly...His deep and thorough fieldwork allows him to draw from a multitude of different interviews from his four research sites (the Chinese cities of Beijing, Jinan, Yinchuan, and Xining) to make insightful and thoughtful conclusions about the ways that Hui Muslims negotiate the expression of their “everyday ethnicity.""
"Stroup’s prose is lucid and pleasant to read, and his artful anecdotes from fieldwork draw the reader effectively into the midst of the issue at hand. It is rare that a study of ethnicity in China captures the everydayness, even the superficial banality, of negotiating difference, while showing that, under the surface, important tensions continue to simmer."
"Every once in a while, one comes across a book that presents, in addition to new information and thought-provoking theorization, a precious opportunity for contemplating the great distance one's field has travelled...Stroup's accessible ethnographic descriptions and clear analyses render the book an essential reference for both general readers and established academics."
~The China Quarterly
"This book offers a comparative, detailed, and thoughtful critique of China’s ethnic politics in the context of China’s urban transformation and migration…By meticulously documenting mundane everyday life concerns, Pure and True does an excellent job of decentering the ethnic or religious identity as the only predominant factor that shapes China’s heterogenous Hui communities."
~Journal of Anthropological Research
"Despite the complexities present within Huí studies, Stroup has managed to weave an impressively accessible narrative, offering an excellent introduction to the Huí for those new to the subject while also granting an intimate insight into Huí identity for those with experience in the field. Well-grounded in prior research—both the specific field of Huí studies and also the broader field of Chinese urban development—and acutely aware of its potential limitations (specifically Stroup's own status as a non-Muslim white American), this volume is a worthy addition to the ever-growing field of Huí studies."
~Religious Studies Review
"In this clear and informative account, David Stroup is sensitive to diversity and the perils of generalization."
"Exceptional...Pure and True effectively opens up a thought-provoking perspective and new backdrop to make sense of Muslims (and other faith groups) in the era of Xi Jinping."