DR. David O'Brien

David O'Brien

Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Sektion Politik Ostasiens
AKAFÖ 2/14
44780 Bochum
Tel.: +49 (0)234 32-26159
Fax: +49 (0)234 32-14585

Consultation hours:

Thursday 14:00-16:00


Research Interests

  • Ethnic identity in China, esp. Xinjiang
  • China's ethnic identity policy
  • China's Western development economic policy and BRI
  • China-Central Asian relations
  • Chinese Communist Party leadership
  • Ethnographic research methodologies


  • BA (Hons) National University of Ireland (Galway) 2002
  • MA (First Class) National University of Ireland (Galway) 2006
  • PhD National University of Ireland (Cork) 2013 Thesis entitled: People and Place in the New Frontier: An Examination of the Construction of Han and Uyghur Ethnic Identities in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Previous Employment

  • 2013-2019 Assistant Professor in Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham (Ningbo Campus)



  • Collins, Neil and O’Brien, David The Politics of Everyday China. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018.

Journal Articles

  • O'Brien, David. "Uyghurs." In Oxford Bibliographies in Chinese Studies. Ed. Tim Wright. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021.
  • Zhang, Xiaoling, O’Brien, David and Brown, Melissa Shani. ‘‘No CCP, No New China’: discourses of pastoral power in the Xinjiang region of China’, China Quarterly, No. 235, September 2018.
  • O’Brien, David. “The Mountains are High and the Emperor is Far Away: An Examination of Ethnic Violence in Xinjiang,” International Journal of Chinese Studies 2(2) (2011): 389-406.
  • Melissa Shani Brown & David O’Brien (2019) Defining the right path: aligning Islam with Chinese socialist core values at Ningbo’s Moon Lake Mosque, Asian Ethnicity, DOI: 10.1080/14631369.2019.1636637

Edited Volume

  • Chan, Hing Kai, Faith Ka Shun Chan, and David O'Brien, eds. International Flows in the Belt and Road Initiative Context: Business, People, History and Geography. New York: Palgrave McMillan 2020.

Book Chapters

  • Brown, Melissa Shani, and David O'Brien. "The significance of silence: Variations in perceptions and experiences of "silence" in international classroom settings." In Academic Experiences of International Students in Chinese Higher Education, pp. 62-83. Routledge, 2020
  • O'Brien, David, and Melissa Shani Brown. 'Ethnic Heritage'on the New Frontier. In Ludwig, Carol, Yiwen Wang, and Linda Walton, eds. The Heritage Turn in China: The Reinvention, Dissemination and Consumption of Heritage. Amsterdam University Press, 2020.
  • O’Brien, David. “If there is harmony in the house there will be order in the nation: An exploration of the Han Chinese as Political Actors in Xinjiang”. In Inside China’s New Frontier: Analysing Space, Place and Power in China’s North-West, edited by Anna Hayes and Michael Clarke. London: Routledge 2015.
  • O’Brien, David. “Violence and identity – the ‘self’ and the ‘other’: An exploration of ethnic relations and conflict in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region”. In Asian Studies – Within and Without, edited by Fan Hong and Peter Herrman. Amsterdam: Rozenberg Press, 2013.

Conference Papers

  • 'High mountains and far-away emperors: The complexity of nationalism and national identity in 21st Century Xinjiang', Chinese National Identity in the Age of Globalisation Conference, Maynooth University, 11-12 October 2019.
  • ‘Hetero-photography: Chinese Tourists' Visual Encounters with Xinjiang and Japan’. Melissa Shani Brown and David O’Brien Annual Conference of the British Association for Chinese Studies, Kings College London, September 12-14, 2018.
  • ‘Touristic encounters of the Other in Xinjiang and Japan, Melissa Shani Brown and David O’Brien Asian Studies Association of Australia, Sydney University. July 2-5, 2018.
  • ‘See Ethnic People in their Natural Environment’: The Idealisation and Commodification of Ethnicity in Xinjiang". Melissa Shani Brown and David O’Brien Trans-Asian Mobilities and Encounters: Exchange, Commodification and Sustainability, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, January 23 – 24, 2017.
  • Friendship, Complicity and Danger: an exploration of the ethical dilemmas in carrying out research in the sensitive region of Xinjiang, China "Identity, Agency and Fieldwork Methodologies in Risky Environments" - International KOSMOS Workshop, Humboldt University Berlin, July 29-30, 2016.
  • Whose China Dream is it anyway? An examination of propaganda in different language versions of the Xinjiang Daily newspaper, Xiaoling Zhang, Melissa Shani Brown and David O’Brien, China’s Propaganda System: Legacies and Enduring Themes, University of Kent, July 1, 2016.
  • Harmony and Dancing on the New Frontier: The idealisation and commodification of ethnic ‘Otherness’ in Xinjiang.  Melissa Brown and David O’Brien, Majoritarian Nationalism and the rights of non-dominant groups. Interdisciplinary symposium organised under the Rights and Justice RPA by the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies, Centre for Race and Rights and ICEMIC, University of Nottingham, UK 15th-16th June 2016.
  • “Who are they talking to? An examination of the different language versions of Xinjiang Daily, Xiaoling Zhang and David O’Brien, British Association for Chinese Studies Annual Conference, University of Leeds, UK, September 2015.
  • “Religion, Ideology and the Sense of Home: An Exploration of Ethnic Identity in China's Troubled Xinjiang Region”, Ideologies in Translation Co-organised by the Department of Political Science, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and Centre for the Study of Political Ideologies, University of Nottingham United Kingdom, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, April 2015.
  • "Violence, identity and the sense of home: An exploration of belonging in urban Xinjiang." Intercultural Communication Between Chin And the Rest of the World: Beyond (Reverse) Essentialism and Culturalism?, University of Helsinki, Finland, June 5 2014.
  • “An exploration of belonging in urban centres in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” Power, Identity and the Authoritarian State - Urban Experiences Juxtaposed, Royal Geographic Society Annual International Conference 2013, Royal Geographic Society, London, August 27-30, 2013. 
  • “Violence, identity the ‘self’ and the ‘other’: An exploration of ethnic relations and conflict in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” Asian Studies Ireland Association 4th Annual Conference 2013, University College Cork, November 30, 2012. 
  • ““I don’t know why I was attacked; I was only trying to get home”: How ethnic violence in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region has impacted on how ethnic groups see themselves and others.” China Postgraduate Network 5th Annual Conference, University of Edinburgh, June 19, 2012.