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China and Islam
The Prophet, the Party, and Law


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Part of Cambridge Studies in Law and Society

  • Date Published: May 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107670112
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About the Authors
  • China and Islam examines the intersection of two critical issues of the contemporary world: Islamic revival and an assertive China, questioning the assumption that Islamic law is incompatible with state law. It finds that both Hui and the Party-State invoke, interpret, and make arguments based on Islamic law, a minjian (unofficial) law in China, to pursue their respective visions of 'the good'. Based on fieldwork in Linxia, 'China's Little Mecca', this study follows Hui clerics, youthful translators on the 'New Silk Road', female educators who reform traditional madrasas, and Party cadres as they reconcile Islamic and socialist laws in the course of the everyday. The first study of Islamic law in China and one of the first ethnographic accounts of law in postsocialist China, China and Islam unsettles unidimensional perceptions of extremist Islam and authoritarian China through Hui minjian practices of law.

    • One of the first ethnographies in English on law in China
    • Will appeal to readers of anthropology, law and society, political science, Asian studies and Islamic studies interested in how a minority group reconciles the competing demands of piety and politics
    • Includes original field research conducted among Hui communities in Northwest China from 2009 to 2015
    • The balanced perspective moves beyond one-sided accounts of both Muslim minorities and China
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    • Honourable mention, 2017 Distinguished Book Award, Asian Law & Society Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    'China, Islam, law: three major forces shaping our world encounter each other in the offices, mosques, and courtrooms of Linxia. We are fortunate to have Matthew S. Erie there to observe, record, and translate the negotiation and accommodations. If you are interested in one of the three forces mentioned above, you ought to read this book; if you are interested in any two, you must do so. A path-breaking achievement.' Tom Ginsburg, Leo Spitz Professor of International Law, University of Chicago Law School

    'Hui Chinese have constructed forms of Islamic education and practice in a long-term historical space shaped by the Party-State and by shifting ideas of Islamic orthodoxy. Erie brings the Hui experience into dialogue with contemporary ethnographic work on Islamic ritual, knowledge, and governance. An ethnographic tour de force.' John Bowen, Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor in Arts and Sciences, Washington University, St Louis, and author of A New Anthropology of Islam

    'Are Communism and Islam incompatible belief systems? In this fascinating account of Chinese Muslim law and its encounters with the state, the author demonstrates that the two manage to work together, predominantly through the middle ground of informal mediation and by ignoring sharp edges. Whether in marriage, Islamic banking, or property matters, we see in this unique and highly circumstantial analysis that the absence of state recognition belies an intriguingly complex, well-told story.' Lawrence Rosen, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University, New Jersey

    'By carefully investigating, explaining, and analyzing the life, politics, and law of China's Muslim minority, Matthew S. Erie moves beyond the stereotypes that often dominate accounts of Islam and China. This book enables us to see both in their complexity.' Frank K. Upham, Wilf Family Professor of Property Law and Co-Director, US-Asia Law Institute, New York University School of Law

    'Matthew S. Erie's engaging ethnographic study brings together for the first time the rich, complicated and overlapping worlds of Chinese law and Islamic law in Northwest China. This fascinating book is a must-read for comparative legal scholars and legal anthropologists alike, illuminating paradoxes and struggles in the operation of religious law under reform-era Chinese socialism.' Teemu Ruskola, Emory University School of Law

    'Erie examines the intersection of Islamic revival and an assertive China, seeking to unsettle unidimensional perceptions of extremist Islam and authoritarian China and to question the assumption that Islamic law is incompatible with state law. Based on fieldwork in Linxia, 'China's Little Mecca,' he follows Hui clerics, youthful translators on the 'New Silk Road,' female educators who reform traditional madrasas, and party cadres as they reconcile Islamic and socialist laws in the course of the everyday.' Law and Social Inquiry

    'Islamic law, sharia, has not been central to studies of Islam in China - indeed, it often receives no mention at all, despite its import for scholars of other parts of the Muslim world and its undoubted importance to Muslims everywhere. Matthew S. Erie, an anthropologist-lawyer, has written a pioneering study based on extensive primary sources and 18 months of field-work in Linxia (临夏; formerly 河州 Hezhou), known as 'Little Mecca', an important Islamic center in Gansu Province. Given the sensitivity of Islamic subjects in China - related to perceived or claimed separatism, religious extremism, and terrorism in Xinjiang - Erie deserves praise for his decade of persistent navigation of the constraints and obstacles of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Beyond the already impressive task of doing this investigation, he has produced a volume of considerable subtlety and breadth, contributing both general claims and detailed ethnography, answering many questions, and successfully setting a baseline for further research.' Jonathan N. Lipman, Twentieth-Century China

    'China and Islam brings to life many of the processes and practices that probably produced the histories of Chinese Islam's textual traditions. When we read the texts - the various Sanzijing editions, for instance - we can sometime only suspect what was going on behind the scenes of composing and publishing a new version.' Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, CrossCurrents

    'Matthew S. Erie's ethnographic study examines the interaction of politics, society, culture and law, and will appeal to researchers, scholars, students and readers from the perspectives of social and political studies, law and society, education, sociocultural studies, Asian studies, comparative legal studies and Islamic studies. … One of the most significant contributions of Erie's research work concerns the belief systems shared by Hui Muslims and Han, such as trust, honesty and avoidance of confrontation as fundamental values for both cultural interaction and social integration. … This book is path-breaking in this regard and has opened up new horizons in various academic fields and interdisciplinary studies.' Sheri Zhang, Journal of Chinese Political Science

    'A unique and impressive set of qualifications came together in Matthew Erie's China and Islam: The Prophet, the Party, and Law … Erie has written a book that will resonate in discussions across disciplines.' Jonathan Fulton,

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    Customer reviews

    26th Feb 2017 by Daquan

    This review is from: China and Islam: The Prophet, the Party, and Law (Cambridge Studies in Law and Society) (Hardcover) Matthew Erie’s book provides new insights into the field of China studies by addressing the important role the Hui Muslims play in Chinese society. The book explains how the Hui Muslim group interacts and negotiates with the Han Chinese and the state in their daily life, leading to an integration of eastern and western civilizations in the west of China. From the perspective of educators in language and culture studies, we are fortunate to have Matthew Erie’s book to inform our field by revealing the characteristics of west China as a unique place that integrates different ethnicities and religions. Through an ethnographic study conducted in Linxia, China, Erie examines the life of Muslims in China and their ways of dealing with the legal systems. The book describes how the relations of Muslims in China with the State are carried out. This well-researched book reflects the work and viewpoints of an anthropologist and a lawyer, who offers readers both the emic and etic views through a wider definition of the law in China, and a thick description of the Chinese culture. These combined perspectives enrich the research areas on language and culture, politics and society, ethics and law. One of the most significant contributions of Erie's research work on China is on the belief systems shared by the Hui Muslims and the Han - trust, honesty and avoidance of confrontation as one of the most fundamental values of Chinese and the Hui Muslims in their cultural interaction and social integration. For the Hui Muslims and the Han, their shared concept and thoughts are that ethics preceding the Law, or, more specifically that the legal is informed by the ethical. While there may be insufficient state law to protect the rights of Hui Muslims, they rely on religious ethics and trust to negotiate their way with others. Matthew’s book is path-breaking in this regard and has opened up new horizons in the field of culture studies. Sheri Zhang, Professor of Asian Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada

    Review was not posted due to profanity


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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107670112
    • length: 471 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 152 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.67kg
    • contains: 23 b/w illus. 3 maps 2 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: the Party-State enters the mosque
    1. History, the Chinese state, and Islamic law
    2. Linxia at the crossroads
    3. Ritual lawfare
    4. Learning the law
    5. Wedding laws
    6. Moral economies
    7. Procedural justice
    Conclusion: law, minjian, and the ends of anthropology.

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    China and Islam

    Matthew S. Erie

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  • Author

    Matthew S. Erie, University of Oxford
    Matthew S. Erie, an anthropologist and a lawyer, is an associate professor of Modern Chinese Studies at the University of Oxford. His earlier works on law and society have appeared in publications such as Law and Social Inquiry, the Hong Kong Law Journal, and the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islamic Law. He has lived and studied in China and the Middle East, and has practiced law in New York City and Beijing.


    • Honourable mention, 2017 Distinguished Book Award, Asian Law & Society Association

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