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Davis, California

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

UC Davis to host Georgetown University expert on Uyghur crisis

The talk, led by James Millward, will be held on the afternoon of March 2 and will provide background and perspective on controversy in this region


By SONORA SLATER — campus@theaggie.org


James Millward, a professor of intersocietal history at Georgetown University, is coming to speak at UC Davis on March 2 from 3-5 p.m. on the topic of the Xinjiang crisis. The free event will take place in the International Center’s multipurpose room, according to a recent press release, and will seek to offer background and perspective on the topic of “colonialism and control in the Uyghur region in China.”

The Uyghur population is predominantly Muslim, and the press release states that these people have “been subject to imprisonment, surveillance, religious intolerance, forced labor and forced sterilizations […] by the Chinese government since 2014.” According to an article by the BBC from May 2022, several countries, including the United States, have previously accused China of committing genocide in this region. However, the Chinese government continues to deny all allegations of abuse. 

The controversy was brought into the public eye with the 2020 release of Disney’s live-action Mulan, part of which was shot in Xinjiang, according to Amanda Aguilo, who is the program coordinator for the East Asian Studies department at UC Davis. Aguilo went on to say that part of the reason the department made the decision to host this event was to ensure the conversation surrounding the issue continues, rather than letting it fizzle out with the media cycle. 

“Especially as students, there’s a lot of compassion fatigue, because there are so many worldwide issues that we grab on to and then forget about and move on,” Aguilo said. “So we thought it was important to bring up this issue and continue the conversation with an expert.”

Millward teaches Qing, Chinese, Central Asian and world history, and his specialties include historical and contemporary Xinjiang, as well as broad knowledge of China-U.S. relations. Aguilo explained that she believes having an academic expert like Millward speak on the topic will give students a different kind of perspective than the one they might receive on social media platforms.

“I’m sure we’re all very familiar with [how] social media news networks are all used to convey ulterior motives,” Aguilo said. “I think coming from a professional who researches this stuff and studies similar topics, it’s nice to hear from someone who isn’t going into this with an objective but is just trying to report on it. We can’t be expected to be experts on everything we hear about, so having a professor come gets rid of that barrier.”

According to Aguilo, since this topic is controversial, the department has dealt with people removing posters for the event. However, she believes that just because a topic is controversial, “that doesn’t necessarily mean to stop talking about it.”

“Because there are a lot of efforts to silence the voices speaking out against this, it’s important for us to elevate those voices,” Aguilo said.


Written by: Sonora Slater — campus@theaggie.org