Basil Davidson in Turkestan Alive: Factual reporter in a newly ‘liberated’ Xinjiang, or willing conduit for the Chinese revolution? (2014)

Author(s): Smith Finley J

  • : Basil Davidson's Turkestan Alive

Abstract: Africanist Basil Davidson is widely believed to have helped change the view of African civilisations as “backward” to one that saw Africa as sophisticated. Yet despite being renowned for an intellectual rigour developed as an investigative reporter, it is questionable whether Davidson brings the same objective gaze to newly “liberated” Xinjiang in the early years of China's socialist revolution. In Turkestan Alive (1957), he undergoes a personal revolutionary voyage. An idealist with deep left-wing sympathies, Davidson seems to meet and quote only individuals with a success story to tell, the result of his dependence on translation and a series of linguistic and political intermediaries. The picture painted is thus largely one the author's embrace of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policies of socialist construction, so that Davidson ultimately emerges as a willing conduit for the Chinese revolution.

  • Type of Article: Research article
  • Short Title: Basil Davidson's Turkestan Alive
  • Journal: Studies in Travel Writing
  • Volume: 18
  • Issue: 4
  • Pages: 374-386
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication type: Article
  • Bibliographic status: Published

Keywords: early years of PRC; idealism; Maoist egalitarianism; ethnic relations; Uyghurs;


Dr Joanne Smith Finley
Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies