Transforming Houses - the Changing Concept of the House in Kashgar

  • Rune Steenberg (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


This paper examines the transformation of the local Uyghur concept of öy (house) in an environment of increasing mobility and monetization in the city of Kashgar in southwest Xinjiang, China. The paper identifies a shift in social practices related to the öy as a social unit and as a conceptual metaphor, which is taking on a stronger genealogical meaning and becoming somewhat de-localized. Departing from the local concept of öy and related local practices of social organization, this paper examines the utility of the analytical concept of the house, as proposed by Claude Levi-Strauss and later criticized and developed by others, as an approach to social organization and transformation in Kashgar. The organization into units that can analytically be grasped as houses often serves as a useful vehicle of adaptation in times of rapid social transformation and political instability. This is due to the concept’s great flexibility, which is well-captured in theoretical discussions. Change and instability have frequently characterized the social environment of Kashgar in past centuries, which may account for the centrality of the öy (as a house) in Kashgar today.