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Film with Roberta Tontini on Islam in China

A film portrait introduces Roberta Tontini and her research. The PhD candidate examines the development and changing characteristics of Islamic law in China.

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In the film, Roberta Tontini explains what happened to Islamic law in China as Islam became part of its religious landscape starting from the 7th century, with the arrival of a first wave of Muslim migrants from the Middle East. These migrants are considered to be among the ancestors of contemporary Chinese Muslims. The film focuses on the Hui people, China’s largest Muslim community.

By examining multiple sources, including different versions of an Islamic educational primer known as Tianfang Sanzijing ("Three Character Classic of Islam"), Roberta Tontini illustrates how Hui scholars approached, understood and defined Islamic law across time (1710 to 2006). Her work traces the dynamic nature of Islamic law in China and its capacity to harmonize itself with the political landscape of the state.

Roberta Tontini is a PhD candidate in the Cluster’s Graduate Programme for Transcultural Studies (GPTS). She graduated in Sinology from the University of Rome, with a thesis on Chinese Muslims’ Islamic identity. After her M.A., she was awarded a scholarship from the Chinese government to continue her research work at Xiamen University. Her research interests include education, ethnicity, Chinese governance and religious legal history.

The film portrait was produced by the Cluster’s film crew, Christoph Bertolo and Anne Scheuing. The film is part of a series initiated by the Chair of Visual and Media Anthropology under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Christiane Brosius. The idea is to present selected Cluster researchers and their projects. Among others, the ethnomusicologist Franck Bernède, the media practitioner Deepali Gaur Singh and the archaeologist Philipp W. Stockhammer have already been portrayed.

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