In his forward to Uyghur Poems, Aziz Isa Elkun mentioned that he struggled to translate some of the poems in the collection and that his wife, Rachel Harris, had helped him. However, it's not that specific as to how she helped him. Also, while he gives some background on himself (he says that he's a poet himself and that he's a native Uyghur Language speaker), no background information is given on her. Does anyone have more information on her background or her role in the translations?


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There are two parts to this question; "Who is Rachel Harris?" is fairly easy to answer, but "How did she help Aziz Isa Elkun?" is more difficult.

To cover the easy part first, Rachel Harris is Professor of Ethnomusicology, in the department of music at SOAS - the School of Oriental and African Studies (part of the University of London). This is the same institution where her husband, Aziz Isa Elkun, is employed as a researcher.

On her institutional webpage, Harris describes her research as:

My research is centred on China and Central Asia, and especially on the Uyghurs. I have conducted fieldwork in Xinjiang, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan over a period of twenty years. I focus on intangible cultural heritage, music and Islam, soundscapes, and state projects of territorialisation. I work in applied ways with performance and transmission projects, including concerts, workshops, and recording projects.

and her most recent book is entitled Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam.

As to how she helped her husband with the translation, that is something less easy to answer. Elkun is a native Uyghar, who moved first to Germany and then to the UK to avoid Chinese persecution. Clearly it would be useful for him to have the assistance of a native English speaker to help with translating Uyghar poems to English, but the details of the collaboration are probably only known to them.

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