Uyghurs on Chinese Social Networking Sites: The Creation and Destruction of Ethnic Youth Culture

in Central Asian Affairs
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The Chinese social networking website Fenbei.com was started in 2003 by a young Chinese software engineer. By 2006 it provided an important online community for tens of thousands of Uyghurs, who developed an online culture and communication genres through which they creatively engaged in a virtual world with thousands of others who shared their interests. By 2010 the site was closed, stranding these Uyghurs and millions of other Chinese citizens without the online site that had become their virtual community and connected them to other users around China and even abroad. This article attempts to uncover a small part of what Fenbei meant for young Uyghur Internet enthusiasts and fills some of the gaps in research on popular Internet use in China.

Uyghurs on Chinese Social Networking Sites: The Creation and Destruction of Ethnic Youth Culture

in Central Asian Affairs

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References

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    Ethan Zuckerman“Hoder’s Talk At Berkman,” …My Heart’s in Accra [blog]. December 10 2004 http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2004/12/10/hoders-talk-at-berkman/ (accessed April 8 2015).

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Figures

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    A typical fashion and love oriented page for a 22-year old woman named Zoragul (using the ordinary Chinese transliteration of her Uyghur name). She uses a photo of a European model for her avatar, and the first photo in her “journal” is of Bollywood star Amrita Rao (identified through Google image search). She has a popularity/activity rating of 1,579. Her music collection includes eight songs, with only one with a Uyghur name, while the others appear to be Chinese pop songs or related to episodes of a television serial.

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    The first eight of her 189 friends appear next. At least one, xinxin7115, appears to have a Chinese name, but four others are clearly Uyghur and three are more anonymous. Subsequent sections display thumbnail images for her one music club membership, the one video she has linked, and the first few of 14 photos she posted. Then comes the interactive “guestbook” on which 13 men have posted 15 notes between May 17 and May 25, 2007.

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    This preformatted heart element circulates through copying but was widely customized with different Chinese and Uyghur phrases: the bottom one means “may Allah be close/kind to us!!!”

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    ”Is anyone there?” Humorous calling card requesting that the recipient contact the poster using the Tencent qq messaging network.

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    One version of a popular image used in image-narratives about lost love.

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