Ruslan Yusupov

Society Fellow


Ruslan Yusupov obtained his Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Before coming to Cornell, he was an Academy Scholar at the Weatherhead Center for International and Area Studies at Harvard University. His research focuses on questions of tradition and temporality, ethics and affect as well as surveillance and militarism. He asks these questions ethnographically in the context of Muslim minorities in China and their experiences of state power and modernity. Currently, Ruslan is working on two book-length monographs. The first one explores the politics of ethnoreligious space building in China’s southwest. The second one examines the social life of surveillance in the context of the so-called “People’s War on Terror” in China's Xinjiang. Ruslan’s work has either appeared or is forthcoming in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Verge: Studies in Global Asia, and The Journal of Asian Studies.

Research Focus

Ruslan’s research will contribute to the theme of Crossing by considering how the practices of cultural activism and development pioneered by ethnic minority Muslims in China complicate state-sponsored visions of modernity and multiculturalism. Tentatively titled Developing Diversity: Politics and Ethics of Islamic Space in China, it follows Muslim minority residents of a small town that is nationally infamous for an incident of ethnoreligious violence. The incident happened in 1975 during the Cultural Revolution and a rampant heroin addiction epidemic that followed the incident made the town into a “no-go zone” for the Han majority citizens of the nearby cities. At the turn of the century, however, the community went through an Islamic revival that culminated in the proliferation of social outreach activities, donation drives to build mosques, and the mobilization along the grassroots efforts of turning the town into a major tourist attraction and destination. Today, the residents of this town commemorate the violence of the Cultural Revolution, welcome non-Muslim strangers into their religious premises, rethink the Islamic prohibition on alcohol and argue with the government about religion, patriotism, and multiculturalism. They do so at the time when the official concerns over the “War on Terror” led the authorities to declare the town to be a seat of ethnoreligious radicalism and extremism. Tracing the ways in which the residents of this town seek to find a place for themselves and Islam in China, the book foregrounds the ethics and strategies of space-making under the conditions of political precarity. The book manuscript also looks at how the ongoing processes of securitization and surveillance dispossess people of this space and the ethnoreligious visibility in the multicultural nation. In so doing, the book traces the far-reaching transformations that occur in the lives of Muslim minorities in Xi Jinping-era China.