This thesis is about how a marginal ethnic minority group may produce a sense of community and a space of social order in the face of an authoritarian Han -dominated state. This thesis deals with the process by which Tajiks in the far west of China attempt to manage disputes and maintain internal order, in an authoritarian political environment. By looking at the micro -politics of disputing, the thesis analyses the relationship between everyday social values and norms, and formal state law. In particular, the thesis focuses on the ethics of Tajik sociality, and the ways in which they try to organise their internal relationships, as well as their relationships with the state. More broadly, the thesis is therefore also concerned with the dynamics of legal and political change among minorities in marginal areas of China.
Drawing comparative lessons from Laura Nader's work on Mexico (1991), and Fernanda Pirie's work on Ladakh (2007), the thesis focuses on the significance of a "harmony ideology ", whereby there is a normative stress on avoiding open conflict. I argue that such a focus on "harmony" is an attempt to produce stability and a measure of autonomy, in a context of rapid social and economic change, and an increasingly intrusive Han -dominated state. However, the same "harmony ideology" can also serve to reproduce internal Tajik inequalities, particularly in relation to gender and age. The thesis therefore addresses issues of ethnic difference, Islamic morality, and the everyday life of the Chinese state at its margins.
The fieldwork upon which the thesis is based was multi -sited within the Tashkurgan region of Xinjiang, and was conducted between May 2010 and September 2011. The thesis is based on interview data, life stories and case files obtained in the region. The attempts of my Tajik informants to avoid the representatives of formal state law should be viewed within a broader political context where state laws are applied in an often arbitrary and discriminatory manner.