In Other Chinas Ralph A. Litzinger investigates the politics of ethnic identity in postsocialist China. By combining innovative research with extensive fieldwork conducted during the late 1980s and early 1990s in south-central and southwestern China, Litzinger provides a detailed ethnography of the region’s Yao population in order to question how minority groups are represented in China. In particular, he focuses on how elite members of this minority population have represented their own culture, history, and identity to a range of Chinese and Western observers.
Litzinger begins by describing how during the Republican period the Yao were considered a dangerous people who preferred to consort with beasts and goblins rather than join in the making of a modern nation. He then compares this to the communist revolutionaries’ view of the Yao as impressive rebels and positive examples of subaltern agency. Litzinger shows how scholars, government workers, communist party officials, and Taoist ritual specialists have influenced the varied depictions of the Yao and, in doing so, he advances a new understanding of both the Yao and the effects of official discourse, written histories, state policy, and practices of minority empowerment. In addition to analyzing issues of ritual practice, social order, morality, and the governance of ethnic populations, Litzinger considers the Yao’s role in the cultural reforms of the 1980s. By distancing his study from romanticized depictions of minorities Litzinger is able to focus on how minority representation, struggle, and agency have influenced the history of the People’s Republic, cultural debates within contemporary Chinese society, and China’s rapidly changing role in the global order.
This book will be of interest to Asianists in both anthropology and cultural studies and should appeal more generally to scholars invested in issues of ethnic identity, minority politics, and transnationalism.
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“A masterful work of ethnography and history that sheds new light on politico-intellectual elites and teaches us a great deal about how to think minority politics in any society. Litzinger elegantly reveals the imbrication of Yao identities with Chinese state practice and the writing of selves that takes place even at the margins.”—Louisa Schein, author of Minority Rules: The Miao and the Feminine in China’s Cultural
“Other Chinas is a brilliantly executed study of the politics of ethnography in contemporary China. Litzinger engages theories of power, identity, and modernity in a nuanced and sensitive manner, with strategically deployed ethnographic examples on everything from the writing of minority histories, to the longing for ethnic places, to the staging of minority difference. Chinese socialism, and its aftermath, may never look the same.”—Ted Swedenburg, co-editor of Displacement, Diaspora, and Geographies of IdentityFrom the Back Cover:
""Other Chinas" is a theoretically rich and multi-sited ethnography that challenges the dominant notion that the Han subject is always the face of Chinese nationalism. Litzinger demonstrates, with brilliant liveliness, how the paths to and from indigenism have long been at the center of the cultural politics of the socialist state. This book should be read by anyone interested in debates about subaltern agency, the writing of national histories, and the critique of post-socialist modernities."--Bruce Grant, Swarthmore College
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