Society and Identity
In 2016, Uighur restaurant Kanway opened in the Hague. Kanway’s founder, 21-year old Nigaray, came to the Netherlands when she was 15. She now owns Kanway together with female entrepreneur Gulbahar, and has stated that her restaurant will be “a bridge between Uighur and Chinese cultures” and a place where people will “learn about Uighur culture”.
In the last decade, there has been a dramatic increase in Chinese Muslim restaurants outside China. These restaurants serve as places of congregation, and spaces for the display of religious and ethnic identities. This paper explores Kanway in the context of religious and cultural visibility in Uighur diaspora politics. It focuses particularly on how the restaurant impacts gendered roles and identities. Recent studies have examined Uighur culture on display on websites and in exhibitions (Hayes 2012). They have also considered the role of Uighur women as upholders of tradition (Witteborn 2011). How do Kanway’s female owners negotiate notions of Uighur identity? How does Kanway position itself vis-à-vis the Chinese community in the Netherlands? A second Uighur restaurant in the Hague, too, was established by a female entrepreneur. The paper juxtaposes the two restaurants and compares them to male-owned Uighur restaurants in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. This problematizes an exclusive understanding of Uighur community and gender roles. The paper shows how each restaurant produces a unique construction of Uighur immigrant identity in the Netherlands.