School of Modern Languages

Staff Profiles

Dr Joanne Smith Finley

Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies



Dr. Smith Finley obtained her BA Honours in Modern Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds in 1991. For three years between 1992 and 1994, she studied Japanese language and culture, and taught English in Kyoto, Japan. She then returned to the UK to pursue an interdisciplinary PhD in Chinese Studies / Social Anthropology at the University of Leeds, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK, and including a year of ethnographic fieldwork. Her thesis focused on changing identities among the Muslim Uyghur nationality of Xinjiang, NW China, and contemporary Uyghur-Han relations (June 1999). Between 1997 and 1999, she worked as a teaching assistant on undergraduate Chinese language and postgraduate Chinese-English translation modules for the University of Leeds, before joining Newcastle University in January 2000. She is currently Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies.

Roles and Responsibilities

Within the School of Modern Languages, Dr. Smith Finley is Year Abroad Officer for China (outgoing students). 

Dr Smith Finley was Head of East Asian Studies from 2009-2012.


BA Honours Modern Chinese Studies (University of Leeds, 1987-1991) -

Modern Chinese language (Mandarin), documents, history, politics, cultural institutions, and modern Chinese literature. Options in Japanese language and modern Japanese literature.

PhD by Research in Chinese Studies / Social Anthropology (University of Leeds, 1994-1999) - 

Thesis title: “Changing Uyghur Identities in Xinjiang in the 1990s.” Supervised by Professor Gregor Benton (formerly of East Asian Studies, University of Leeds) and Dr. Ray Pawson (Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds).

Cambridge/RSA CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) (September-October 2000) -

International House, Stowell Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne: Grade A.

Previous Positions

January 1997-March 1999:
Teaching assistant - Dept. of East Asian Studies, University of Leeds (Chinese language and modern Chinese history at undergraduate level; Chinese-English translation at postgraduate level.

July-December 1998:
Researcher/Interpreter for “The Dragon’s Ascent,” - Totem Productions, London SW11. A multi-media project on the history of Chinese civilisation (TV documentary series, book, CD Rom). Responsibilities included research and reconnaissance for films/stills; interpreting for production crews; organising stills shoots; interviewing; fixing; creation of a stills database.

April 1992-August 1994:
EFL instructor - English language schools in Osaka and Kyoto, Japan. Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Japanese nationals of various ages.


Association for Asian Studies (AAS); Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS); British Association for Chinese Studies (BACS - Council Member, 2011-2014); list member, Asia In The North.


Spoken and written Chinese, Japanese and Uyghur; written French and German.

Informal Interests

Aside from academic activities, Dr Smith Finley writes occasional articles for the UK media and acts as consultant to a number of independent documentary filmmakers, news correspondents, legal firms, refugee support organisations, and governmental and non-governmental organisations. She is a trained classical pianist.


Research Interests

My research interests include the formation, transformation, hybridisation and globalisation of identities among the Uyghurs of Xinjiang, NW China;  strategies of symbolic resistance in Xinjiang; alternative representations of Uyghur identities in popular song/culture; the gendering of ethnopolitics in the hostess industry in Xinjiang; continuity and change in gender roles among Uyghurs in urban Xinjiang (involving the socio-cultural analysis of gendered Uyghur proverbs); and potential connections between newly emerging ideologies of animal rights and the sense of social/civic responsibility in contemporary urban China.

Current Work

I am currently revising two pieces for publication. These include a journal article on the gendering of (ethno-) national politics in the hostess industry in Urumchi, Xinjiang; and another on flamenco fusion, rap music and the emergence of the 'subaltern cosmopolitan' in urban Xinjiang.

In press, I have a book chapter on the contestation of space, place and cultural ownership in Xinjiang, as articulated through the rock fusion of Mando-pop singer Dao Lang (Routledge), and a book chapter on gender in Uyghur proverbs for an edited volume compiled in memorium of Ambassador Gunnar Jarring (Brill Academic Publishing).

My second edited volume - on language, education and Uyghur identity in urban Xinjiang - was just published by Routledge (Studies of Ethnicity in Asia) in November 2015. See it here:

My journal article about Africanist Basil Davidson's political sojourn to Xinjiang in 1956 was published in a Special Issue of Studies in Travel Writing in 2014.

In 2013, I published my monograph The Art of Symbolic Resistance: Uyghur Identities and Uyghur-Han Relations in Contemporary Xinjiang (Leiden: Brill, 2013). This is an ethnographic study of evolving Uyghur identities and ethnic relations over a period of 20 years (from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union through the 1997 Ghulja disturbances and the 2009 Urumchi riots to the present). See it here:

Also in 2013, I completed a book chapter, which discusses the promotion and contestation of 'social harmony' in Chinese TV drama, Xinjiang Girls (Beller-Hann and Brox eds. On the Fringes of the Harmonious Society: Tibetans and Uyghurs in Socialist China, 2013).  See the edited volume here:

Future Research

I am formulating two projects for future research. The first extends my ongoing work involving the socio-cultural analysis of a corpus of over 200 gendered proverbs concerning male and female roles in Uyghur traditional society. The next step will be to assess the extent of continuity and change in gender norms over time via a series of focus group discussions with young Uyghur men and women in urban Xinjiang, and in the diaspora. These patterns will be considered against the background of Islamic renewal in the region and around the world.

The second project concerns the evolution of new ideologies of animal rights in contemporary, urban China. I am interested in the ways in which young activists have recourse to traditional Chinese thought systems such as Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism when building the case for respect and protection of non-human beings. I am also interested in the extent to which this development may represent a growing sense of social or civic responsibility among the youth - one that extends beyond even humans to the animal world.

Postgraduate Supervision

I am eager to supervise students working on contemporary Chinese topics that fall broadly within the following research areas: ethnicity, identity and nationalism; ethnic relations and ethnic conflict; popular resistance; religious renewal; popular music / culture and representation; continuity and change in gender roles and interactions; grassroots activism.   

PhD students currently under supervision:

James Cummings: PhD (ESRC North East Doctoral Training Centre), Male Same-Sex Desire and Identity Construction in a Rapidly Changing Society: A Study of Emergent Male Non-Normative Sexual Identities in Hainan Province, China. 2013 - present.

PGR students supervised to completion:

Anthony Baker: MLitt, Mining the Literatures of the Six Dynasties Period: The Origins of Contemporary International Relations Theory?. Graduated 2014.

James Cummings: MLitt, Homosexual Identity Construction at the Intersection of Sexuality and Regionalism in Hainan province. Graduated 2013. 

Farah Lodhi: MLitt, Ethnic Representation and Social Marginalisation of Uyghur Migrants in Shanghai. Graduated 2013.

Lingzhi (Liz) Gu: Integrated PhD, Occidentalism in Academic Discourses of Translation Studies in China. Graduated 2009.

Esteem Indicators 

Invited to present at the following conferences, workshops and research seminars:  

25-27 September 2014: First International Conference on Uyghur Studies: History, Culture and Society, Central Asia Program,  Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington DC.

28th November, 2013: Invited lecture 'Redistribution of wealth or consolidation of majority Han power? The "national partner assistance programme" in Khotan, Xinjiang'. Scottish Centre for China Research (SCCR), University of Glasgow

1st May 2013: Invited lecture 'All Five Digits on a Hand Are Not the Same: Sources of Islamic Renewal in Contemporary Xinjiang', Religious Studies seminar series at the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen, convened by Dr Zohar Hadromi-Allouche


5th November 2012: Talk on the risks of returning Uyghur asylum seekers to China at a bi-annual seminar for Dutch lawyers and legal aid workers in the field of asylum and immigration. Seminar organised by the Dutch Council for Refugees, Congreszal Juliana, Jaarbeurs Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands.


10th-12th May 2012: Invited paper, 'Return to Kashgar': an International Workshop in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the death of Ambassadør Gunnar Jarring. Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS), University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Organised by Dr. Ildikó Bellér-Hann (University of Copenhagen), Dr. Jun Sugawara (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) and Prof. Birgit Schlyter (Stockholm University).


15th March 2012: Invited lecture on the politics of pop music fusion in Northwest China, Centre for Contemporary China Studies, Durham University. Series convened by Mr Mamtymin Sunuodula.


3rd-4th November 2011: Keynote lecture at the 'Beyond "The Xinjiang Problem"', International Workshop held at the Australian National University (ANU). See:


20-21 May 2011: Invited paper, 'Challenging the Harmonious Society: Tibetans and Uyghurs in Socialist China': an International Workshop held at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS), University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Organised by Dr. Ildikó Bellér-Hann and Dr Trine Brox (both of University of Copenhagen).


30th April, 2010: Invited paper, 'Xinjiang and Travel Writing' Workshop held at Liverpool University, organised by Professor Charles Forsdick (Liverpool University) and Professor Alex Hughes (University of Kent).


15th April 2010: Invited paper, 'Xinjiang Riots 2009', one-day strategic seminar organised by Dr Uradyn Bulag of the Mongolia and Inner Asia Unit (MIASU), University of Cambridge.


15th-16th May 2006: Invited paper, 'China-Middle East Connections', a bi-national academic conference (UK-Israel) held at Haifa University, Israel. Organised by Professor Yitzhak Shichor, Haifa University.  

Referees articles and reviews books for the following leading scholarly journals:

  • Asian Ethnicity
  • The China Journal
  • The China Quarterly
  • Inner Asia
  • Journal of Contemporary China
  • Modern China
  • Focaal: European Journal of Anthropology
  • Ethnic and Racial Studies
  • Equal Rights Review 
  • The Sociological Review
  • Japanese Journal of Political Science  

Referees monographs for the White Horse Press (Cambridge), Routledge and the University of Chicago Press.

Referees grant applications for the Leverhulme Trust.

First published article ‘Four Generations of Uyghurs’ named as one of the best to appear in the early issues of Inner Asia in a THES review. Book chapter ‘“Ethnic Anomaly” or Modern Uyghur Survivor? A Case Study of the Minkaohan Hybrid Identity in Xinjiang’ singled out for commendation by Professor Nicholas Tapp (Australian National University) in a 2008 review of her co-edited volume, Situating the Uyghurs Between China and Central Asia (2007).


2014: Newcastle University Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Profile-Raising Funds / Newcastle Human Rights and  Social Justice Forum. Funding to support a Strategic Workshop: Ethnic Conflict in Xinjiang, China: How far is insecurity the product of increased securitisation? 3 October, 2014.

2012: Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies (CRCEES), University of Glasgow. Funding to support the Annual Nawruz-Noorus Postgraduate Workshop on Central Asia, held at Newcastle University, 21-22 March 2013.

2011: China and Inner Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies (CIAC-AAS). Funding to support Publication Workshop 'Uyghur Youth Identities in Urban Xinjiang', held at the White Rose East Asia Centre (WREAC), Sheffield, 8th July 2011. Additional funding provided by WREAC.

2004: China and Inner Asia Council  of the Association for Asian Studies (CIAC-AAS), in conjunction with the Chiang Ching-Kuo (CCK) Foundation; The British Academy. Funding for international conference 'Situating the Uyghurs between China and Central Asia', 5th-6th November, 2004, co-organised with Dr Ildikó Bellér-Hann; Dr Cristina Cesàro; and Dr Rachel Harris, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Additional funding provided by SOAS. 


Undergraduate Teaching


  • SML1022 Introduction to Cultural Studies


  • CHN2004 Contemporary Chinese Society
  • GEO2047 Political Geography (East Asia seminar)


  • CHN4001 Level C Chinese language (Chinese-English Translation)
  • CHN4061 Level D Chinese language (Chinese-English Translation: Authentic Texts)
  • CHN4004 Nation and Nationalisms in Contemporary China
  • SML4099 Dissertation (China)