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

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jo Smith Finley



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Smith Finley J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Studies in Travel Writing

Year: 2014

Volume: 18

Issue: 4

Pages: 374-386

Online publication date: 02/12/2014

Date deposited: 12/05/2015

ISSN (print): 1364-5145

ISSN (electronic): 1755-7550

Publisher: Taylor & Francis


DOI: 10.1080/13645145.2014.966533


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