Author Biography

Marie-Paule Hille is an Associate Professor at EHESS (Paris). She is an anthropologist and historian. Her research interests cover different aspect of the history of Muslim communities in northwest China. Her recent publications touch on political and economic aspects of Tibetan-Muslim relations in Amdo. Her more recent publication on that topic is the co-edited volume Muslims in Amdo Tibetan Society. Multidisciplinary Approaches (2015, Lanham, Lexington Books). She is currently working on economic anthropological perspectives in the study of emotions in trade interactions.


This short essay discusses whether Xidaotang, a Chinese Muslim community, may be considered as belonging to the ‘Himalayan ummah’. Historically and until today, especially via trade, this community has been in close contact with the Himalayan region, understood as the mountainous zone of the Tibetan Plateau. By analyzing these trading interactions and the sociability they induce, it is possible to investigate to what extent Xidaotang members, with their own cultural background, religious practices and social experiences, have contributed to diversify the Islamic landscape in the Himalayan region, to which Amdo belongs.


The author is grateful to Xénia de Heering who provided valuable comments on an early draft of this article. Her thanks also extend to Thupten Gyatso for helping to transcribe Tibetan interview and to Lama Jabb for his translation from Tibetan. She remains indebted to all the Muslims and Tibetans who helped during fieldwork over the years.

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