Our Book of the Month choice for April

The SSL ‘Book of the Month’ feature highlights a book in our collection that has been chosen by one of our Subject Consultants. This may be a recent addition to our stock or an existing item that we would like to share with you.

Helen Worrell (Subject Consultant for Anthropology) selecting a book from the SSL shelves

April’s Book of the Month was selected by Helen Worrell, Subject Consultant for Anthropology.


Unruly speech: displacement and the politics of transgression

Saskia Witteborn

Stanford University Press, 2023

DS731.U4.WIT 2023




It was chosen as it is a multi-sited transnational ethnography that encompasses a variety of anthropological topics.  It is relevant to those studying migration and displacement, language and social interaction, advocacy and digital surveillance, and a transnational China.

Book Overview

Unruly Speech explores how Uyghurs in China and in the diaspora transgress sociopolitical limits with “unruly” communication practices in a quest for change. Drawing on research in China, the United States, and Germany, Saskia Witteborn situates her study against the backdrop of displacement and shows how naming practices and witness accounts become potent ways of resistance in everyday interactions and in global activism.


“Based on a rigorous, multi-sited ethnography conducted in Xinjiang and within diasporas in Germany and the United States, Unruly Speech is a thorough inquiry into transgressive spaces of testimony and advocacy under digital surveillance in totalitarian regimes. It provides an important contribution to the anthropology of resistance.”

Didier Fassin, Institute for Advanced Study and the Collège de France

“In Unruly Speech, Saskia Witteborn provides a clever ethnography of communication practices and processes in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China and in the Uyghur diasporas in Germany and the United States…. This way, Witteborn builds a conceptual bridge between the material process of displacement and the symbolic dislocation of meaning.”

Andrew Fallone, International Affairs

“Unruly Speech is itself a testimonio to the strength and resilience of Uyghur communities who have been enduring severe political, social, and cultural dispossessions over the past two decades. The book bridges anthropology and communication studies through its ethnographic methodology of communication and critical self-reflexivity. It contributes to migration literature, language and social interaction literature, and the study of contemporary China and Uyghur lifeworlds from a global perspective. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in delving into a hopeful world of transgressive possibilities.”

Jing Wang, American Ethnologist

How can I access it?

We have one lending copy of this book, which is located on our New Books Display Area (around the corner from our Issue Desk). Its shelfmark is DS731.U4.WIT 2023

Image of an open book with the pages curled to form a love heartWhat would your SSL Book of the Month be? Do you have a favourite book in our collection? If so, we would love to know what it is. Add a comment below or email us.

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