Ever since Daniel Stolkowski began seriously studying China and Chinese language in 2000, he has wanted to live in the far western region of the country and learn more about the Uighur ethnic minority. Last year, Daniel earned a Boren Fellowship to do just that: study at Xinjiang Normal University in Urumqi, Xinjiang.While most students go to China to study Mandarin, by the time he won the Fellowship, Daniel had reached a high enough language proficiency to study Uighur in a Mandarin- based classroom setting.So, while his focus was on Uighur, he was actually studying two languages at the same time.
Outside of the classes, Daniel immersed himself in Uighur culture, establishing ties with local people, and experiencing the riches and nuances of daily life and customs in the region. He regularly interviewed Uighurs and documented their opinions on development in Xinjiang, keeping a journal written entirely in Mandarin. The focus of Daniel’s academic interests is gaining a better understanding of relations between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the Xinjiang region. The importance of this topic became even more apparent this past July, when there was a large ethnic uprising in Urumqi, the city where Daniel was living.
To summarize his time in China, Daniel stated: The time I spent with Boren had an incredible impact on my understanding of the Xinjiang region. Before getting on the plane to start my Fellowship, I had spent years reading books and talking to people about Uighurs in China.Although I learned a lot from what has already been published, actually going to the area and meeting the people has significantly enhanced my knowledge on this critical and unique topic. I now plan to continue to study the region and
people even after I finish my graduate program.
Daniel will encapsulate his experience by writing a paper on the future of Xinjiang’s development. In addition, he plans to pursue a position within the federal government that allows him to focus on China’s role in Central Asia and, eventually, become a government lawyer.
Written: September 2009