“It’s fascinating how music can help people relate to each other and give insight on the local culture, especially somewhere like Xinjiang,” says Audrey Wozniak, recent Wellesley graduate.
Wozniak’s work in US-China relations intertwines the worlds of culture, music and communication. As the winner of the prestigious Thomas Watson Fellowship, she is currently in Xinjiang conducting research on muquam—a mixture of Uighur folk, dance, and classical music. This research project is fully-funded and will be comparative, as Wozniak will also travel to Azerbaijan, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Indonesia to examine the roles of music traditions in local culture, as well as their intersection with international relations.
Her interest in Xinjiang also extends far beyond the realm of music. Having worked as an intern for ABC News’ Beijing bureau, and as a 2013 Albright Fellow at the Madeleine Korbel Albright Institute for Global Affairs, Wozniak has been deeply involved in international relations and foreign-based journalism in China. She first visited China in 2009, when ethnic riots began to break out in Xinjiang.
“As a 16 year old, it was shocking to see that all foreign media was shut down, and that the government could use media to control flows of information and shape public opinion,” she remarks. “That’s when I became interested in studying everything I could about Chinese political affairs.”
In her senior year at Wellesley, Wozniak researched the linguistics of Chinese online censorship, and published her findings in the International Relations Council Journal. Earlier this year, she presented her paper for the Association of Chinese Linguistics. Much of the study centered around the ways in which Chinese web users manipulate language online to avoid censors.
Freedom of expression in China is a topic that Audrey feels strongly about, but also something that she understands the tenuous implications of. “Being allowed to freely disseminate information is something that should not be compromised,” says Audrey. “Although talking to people here [in Xinjiang] about news that is not being reported and cannot be reported makes me feel what I can only describe as a huge sense of injustice, it fascinates me and motivates me to learn everything I can about it.”