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China Inside Out

Pál Nyíri
Joana Breidenbach

Chapter 9. Alterity Motives

Dru C. Gladney

Texte intégral

”Tribes with Flags”?

1The so-called war on terrorism and the ongoing irresolvable conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan have contributed to the widespread privileging of “tribal” and ethnic identifications in social and critical analyses of politics and culture. The notion “tribe,” after lying discarded in the waste bin of anthropological history for nearly two decades, has been redeployed in both popular and more scholarly depictions to account for the resurgence of ethnic nationalisms and communal identities around the globe. Self-appointed globalization experts have unwittingly concluded that globalization and nationalism go hand-in-hand, and that nationalism is but a modern form of tribalism. Popularly, the most notorious early example of this was Joel Kotkin’s book, Tribes: How Race, Religion, and Identity Determine Success in the New Global Economy, in which he argued that “tribal identities” (in this case, the Jews, Chinese, Japanese, British, and Indians) are at the basis of global business success (Kotkin 1992). Published by Random House, the author is said to be an “internationally recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends” who invokes, in Arjun Appadurai’s critique, the “trope of the tribe” to explain the coupling of “race, religion, and identity” in the modern world order (Appadurai 1993: 423).

2Although Kotkin’s is clearly a trade paperback articulation, it is remarkably mirrored in a growing scholarly literature that seeks to locate resurgent nationalisms in core, primordial essentialized identities, now portrayed as “tribes with flags” (Glass 1990). By contrast, this chapter will argue that people subscribe to certain represented identifications in particular highly contextualized social relationships. In the modern world, these identifications are often regulated by nation-states and limited to certain lines of stereotypical representation.

3Though anthropologists discarded the notion of “tribe” over two decades ago, since it was felt that “tribe” was often only applied to less developed, non-Western societies (viz., “they are tribal; we are ethnic”), the idea of tribalism has resurfaced to explain the recent reassertions of identity politics as distant and diverse as Afghanistan, the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, South Asia, and Africa. Asia and Africa, given their rather recent colonial pasts and historic connections to nomadic and pastoralist societies, are most vulnerable to suggestions that it is “tribalism” that is at the core of the new resurgent identities (see Garthwaite 1993: 142).

Fig. 9.1. Some mosques in China look just like temples (Photo: Pál Nyíri)

The anthropological debate over the appropriateness of the term ”tribe” for group identity
The debate over the appropriateness of the term ”tribe” for group identity in anthropology is best summarized in the collections by Gulliver (1969) and Helm (1968). For later references to ethnicity as tribal, see Glass (1990), Tribes with Flags: A Dangerous Passage through the Chaos of the Middle East.

4It is interesting that in the current ethnic national conflicts in Eastern Europe, rarely is the term tribal used, but it is frequently used to describe communal violence in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, perhaps indicating a racist and developmental connotation in the term.

Imagined communities

5By contrast, Benedict Anderson has led the way for a host of theorists in suggesting that national identity is best understood as historically contextualized, a socially constituted and constitutive process of imbuing “imagined communities” with the belief that they are somehow naturally linked by common identities (Anderson 1991).

Anderson’s Imagined Communities see pp. 5-6

6Characterized as constructionist, Ander-sonian approaches conceptualize identities as highly contested, multiple, constructed, and negotiated within and between the power relations of the nation-state, rather than naturalized and primordial (Gupta and Ferguson 1992, Malkki 1992). Nationalist ideologies become cultural productions (Befu 1993, Fox 1990), legitimized as inventions of tradition and narrated as social histories (Hobsbawm 1983, Tonkin, McDonald and Chapman 1989).

7While it has perhaps become axiomatic that ideas of identity, ethnicity, and nationality are socially constructed, the problem with suggesting that these identities are generally “imagined” is that Anderson is often taken too literally (in ways he may have never imagined), as if ethnic and national identities were completely “invented” (to use Hobsbawm’s and Ranger’s formulation which can be, and is just as often as Anderson, completely misconstrued) out of thin air, a fiction of the collective imaginary, or an idea which arose in the smoke-filled drawing rooms of a few nouveau British aristocrats (as Greenfeld 1992 seems to suggest). As a corrective, this text was written out of a desire to locate the rise of nationalism (and its contemporary challenges) in particular moments of history, coterminous but not synonymous with the end of empire, the rise of colonialism, the expansion of global capital, and the domination of groups gradually classified and taxonomized as subject peoples, ethnicities, and eventually nations. A related subtext of this chapter is the attempt to inject social theoretical issues into the current writing on Central and Inner Asia. Long closed to non-Soviet scholars and non-Russian speakers, the region is now open to a wide range of travelers, writers, developers, and investigators who are beginning to have a better idea of what is going on, but have rarely seriously theorized or problematized why we see Central Asia in certain ways, and how Central Asians might see each other.

Gladney on the centrality of Central Asia
That we see Central Asia as somehow ”Central” (to what?) or ”Inner” (as opposed to outer?) is theorized in a forthcoming paper. The region’s centrality is taken for granted and vehemently argued by most Central Asianists (see Frank 1992).

Thinking beyond the nation?

8This is why I take issue with Appadurai’s rather idealistic urging to begin “thinking beyond the nation” to a time when the nation-state no longer exists (Appadurai 1996, see also Schein’s reading of the article in her chapter). In more recent writing, Appadurai has argued that globalism has contributed to a heightened localism, a translocalism, that reaches beyond the nation-state to imagined national identities that transcend space and time (Appadurai 2001). He continues to advocate a move “beyond nationalism” to a rather individualistic, particularistic state where Adam Smith-like actors think of themselves and their neighbor first, before their nation or communal identifications. In light of recent events in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, this must be called “wishful thinking beyond the nation.” Similarly, Hobsbawm has theorized that “nations exist ... in the context of a particular stage of technological and economic development” (Hobsbawm 1991: 9). When he wrote that just over a decade ago, he too apparently idealized that the late modern stage of national identities would be superceded by something less nasty. Nations and ethnic or linguistic groups, he prophesized, should be “retreating before, resisting, adapting to, and being absorbed or dislocated by, the new supranational restructuring of the globe” to the extent that nationalism “is no longer a major vector of historical development” (Hobsbawm 1991: 182). This idea would certainly not account for the current struggles for nationhood and cultural survival in Bosnia, Rwanda, Tibet, much of contemporary Central Asia, and even Quebec (Handler 1988). These trends indicate that the current constructions of identity politics in the form of ethnic nationalisms represent something more than the reemergence of tribalism, nor are they confined to the so-called “Third World.” These “globalization idealists” see global individualism as the goal toward which we all should strive, holding us back is recidivist “tribal” and “ethnic” identities that lead to cultural lustration, racialization, and ethnocentrism.

9Here I think Greenfeld is correct in suggesting that as long as nationalism is perceived as the “constitutive principle of modernity” (with the term “perceived” most operative here), postnationalism will only arise with a realized postmodernity, and for that we have a long way to go (Greenfeld 1992: 491). Milošević:, the new leaders of the 15 nations of the former USSR, and other would-be national leaders in Chechnya, Abkhazia, and Somalia are busily making more nations, not thinking beyond them. Those most engaged thinking beyond the nation-state generally occupy positions of privilege and supranationality where, like Homi Bhabha (1994), they are able to move from home to home (or more appropriately, house to house) in Chicago, London, and New Delhi, without having to rely on communal or ethnic connections for survival or continued cash flow.

The argument of this chapter

Gladney on his approach
It was through interviews with many of the people I spent time with in China whom I met again as exiles in Turkey and Europe, that I began to think much more about the implications of relational alterity for what Rey Chow calls the diasporic condition, and its destabilizing challenge to the contemporary nation-state. I spent the 1992-93 academic year as a Fulbright Research Scholar in Istanbul following up on interviews I had in 1988 with refugees who had come there from China in the 1940s. This was after spending three years in China conducting fieldwork between 1982-1986 primarily among the people known as Hui, but with brief trips to Uyghur and Kazak areas in China during that time.
Since then, I have been back to China every year, visited Almaty on three occasions, most recently in June 1992, and attempted in each case to follow up on contacts with Hui, Uyghur, and Kazaks and their relatives I had met during the earlier period. Spending most of my time moving between the boundaries of nation-states among the peoples that cross them, rather than ”squatting” (Geertz 1989: 23) in one ”timeless, self-contained” village, neighborhood, town, or state (the preferred hierarchy of structural anthropologists) follows Richard Fox’s maxim to ”work in the present” (Fox 1991: 1) or Bhabha’s call to work in the ”interstices,” across the boundaries by which the groups I am interested in most define themselves.

10This chapter regards national identity not as a consequence of globalism nor as the opposite of a modernist, self-enlightened identity, but as the product of contemporary and historical social relations. Taking Islam in Asia as a case study, I argue that Muslim and other identities in places like China, Central Asia, and Turkey provide examples of constructed identifications that are entirely logical, indeed necessary, for survival in the contemporary nation-state system. Given the long history of interactions with powerful others and colonizing empires in Asia, a purely relativist or, at the other extreme, a dehistoricized essentialized position with regard to identity formation is particularly questionable. Both extremes ignore issues of power, hegemony, “internal” colonialism, and cultural economy that have long dominated the region.

11It is in the articulation of the multiplicities of these identities in exile, engaging in the “borderline work of culture” (Bhabha 1994: 7), that they become salient. Through examining three peoples portrayed as, and who now speak of themselves as “nations” (but only one of whom recently acquired a nation-state, and only one other as yet lays claim to such a state), I want to suggest three styles of identifications that, to follow Stallybrass and White’s (1986) formulation (in their richly written The Politics and Poetics of Transgression), pose fundamental transgressions of the contemporary nation-state, and intriguing challenges to it. These are discourses of diaspora, indigeneity, and transhumanity elaborated by the social groups now known as Hui (Dungan), Uyghur, and Kazak.

12I argue that nationalism itself is not just an imagined idea, but represents certain styles of imagined representation, a mode of representation that contributes to a grammar of action now most often defined by interactions within or resistance to the nation-state. As Hobsbawm argues, “Nationalism is a political program . Without this program, realized or not, ‘nationalism’ is a meaningless term” (Hobsbawm 1992: 4). Nationalism is not arbitrary, but neither is there any core content to it, no essential essence that is not shifted and redefined in internal and external, often dialogical, opposition, using powerful symbols that John Comaroff has accurately described as defined by “totemic” relationality (Comaroff 1987). And, as Duara notes in his chapter, all nationalisms and ethnicities are not necessarily by-products of or contained within the nation-state construction.

13The spate of what might be termed “Soviet nostalgia” in Foreign Affairs and other policy manuals which complain of the reemergence of “tribalisms” in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe now that the “peace-keeping” hand of the Soviets and the “repressive” religious oligarchy of the Taliban have been dismantled, is misplaced, if not dangerously wrong. These peoples had been profoundly different before their domination by the centralizing states of Soviet and Chinese Central Asia, and their multifaceted identities are anything but tribal. Those suggesting Islamic extremism as an explanatory panacea for recent events in these regions have equally failed to note that expressions of Turkic or Islamic solidarity are often only one aspect of these complex identities in certain circumstances. In fact, the outcome of the desiccation of post-Soviet Central Asia has been most profoundly disappointing to the pan-Turkists and pan-Islamicists who would wish to construct global, transnational movements along the lines of language, race, or religion. The welcome recent translation of Olivier Roy’s (1994) The Failure of Political Islam demonstrates that for Afghanistan, as well as much of Central Asia, the “perception of Islam and Muslim societies as one timeless cultural system” does violence to both contemporary social movements sweeping these regions, as well as the nature of Islam itself. This chapter attempts to suggest why these pan-ideologies may be even less compelling in the “globalization” era than in the so-called preglobal period when they supposedly arose.

Representation and national identification

14I argue that the representation of the “minority” in China and elsewhere reflects an objectivizing of a “majority” nationality discourse that parallels the valorization of gender and political hierarchies. This process reverses subject/object distinctions and suggests the following parallels: Minorities are to the majority as female is to male, as “Third” World is to First, and as subjectivized is to objectivized identity. The widespread definition and representation of the “minority” as exotic, colorful, and “primitive” homogenizes the undefined majority as united, monoethnic, and modern. The politics of representation in China reveal much about the state’s project constructing in often binary minority/majority terms an “imagined” national identity (Anderson 1991). Through reading the representation of minorities in China, this chapter suggests that we learn much, perhaps more, about the construction of the majority, known as the “Han nationality.”

15Following the tragedy of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, there have been an onslaught of scholarly publications attempting to define and redefine China’s “quest for a national identity” in various terms, including: Confucianism or neo-Confucian-ism (i.e., recent suggestions in the political economy literature that it is Confucian culture that has led to the rapid industrial successes of the East Asian economies of Japan and the “four little dragons”: Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore; see Ong’s chapter), language (the popular notion that those who speak and read Chinese are Chinese), Han Chinese sedentary agriculturalism (contrasted with “minority” nomadism, see Fei Xiaotong 1989), the geophysical space of the country occupied by the PRC (Zhongguo, the central kingdom centered in the territory of China, see Thierry 1989) or a biogenetic neoracist notion of pan-Chinese Yellowness (as Su Xiaokang’s 1989 television series River Elegy seems to suggest; see Dokötter’s chapter).

The relational nature of identity

16By contrast, a burgeoning literature on the anthropology of the Self has argued for movement away from reified definitions of Self to emphases upon “multiplicity, con-textuality, complexity, power, irony, and resistance” (Kondo 1990: 43). Similarly, studies of ethnicity and nationalism have begun to move away from either culturally or primordial-based formulations to the analysis of power relations, particularly in contemporary nation-states (Anderson 1991, Comaroff 1987, Hobsbawm 1991, Glad-ney 1991, Keyes 1981). The connection between the relationally-described identities of nationalism and gender was made most clearly in the conference volume Nationalisms and Sexualities. The authors convincingly argue that, “like gender—nationality is a relational term whose identity derives from its inherence in a system of differences” (Parker et. al. 1992: 5; compare also Caplan 1987: 10). As traced by the Italian scholar Guido Zernatto (cited in Greenfeld 1992: 4), the Latin natio originally meant foreigners united by place of origin who were not Roman citizens. Like the Greek ethne, it meant outsider, less civilized, but without the connotation of “heathen,” or religious minority, which followed the term “ethnic” into English. “Nation” took on the meaning of a “community of opinion” during the 12th century Church Council where “nations” represented elite ecclesiastical parties. Greenfeld (1992: 5) shows how the term becomes transformed in a “zigzag pattern of semantic change” overtime to mean a “unique sovereign people,” and I will argue, this is not unlike how groups themselves become transformed from loose associations, into what might be called ethnic groups, to nations, and even nation-states.

Gladney on the tyranny of terminology
While I agree with the need to investigate the origins of Western discourses about identity, Greenfeld’s lexicographical history (Greenfeld 1992) and Thomas Eriksen’s descriptive taxonomies in the end prove unsatisfactory in that they fail to address the contemporary salience of ethnic nationalist discourse. Thomas Eriksen’s Ethnicity & Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives (Eriksen 1993) tells us ”what is ethnicity,” and ”what identities do,” and in the end moves from the metaphor of the ”melting pot” to the ”stir-fry”—the vegetables are all still there and you add a little power or class conflict and get a slightly different mix.
Greenfeld’s helpful definition of the nation as ”a unique sovereign people” captures both the ethnic (ascriptive) and national (descriptive and prescriptive) aspects, but does not show us how and why people can transgress these categories by moving among, within, and against them, or why they should have to in the first place. Neither encyclopedic attempt deals adequately with the power and increasing salience of identity formation depicted as ethnic and national, what Michael Fischer (Fischer 1986: 195) once described as its paradoxical ”id-like” power, its ”ambivalence,” its ”multiplicity, contextuality, complexity, power, irony, and resistance” (Kondo 1989: 43).

17In this chapter I seek to address this issue with regard to the shifting simultaneity of identity, constructed through relations of alterity, in the context of contemporary nation-states.

18Several scholars have noted the colorful portrayal of minorities in China as derogatory, colonial, and useful to the state (Diamond 1988, Thierry 1989), but this extends to imperial times and is not particularly new (see Eberhard 1982). Studies of modern Chinese art have also drawn attention to the important place of minorities in the formation of art history of the PRC (Chang 1980, Laing 1988, Lufkin 1990). I would like to suggest that the objectified portrayal of minorities as exoticized, and even eroticized, is essential to the construction of the Han Chinese majority, the very formulation of the Chinese “nation” itself. In other words, the representation of the minorities in such colorful, romanticized fashion has more to do with constructing a majority discourse than it does with the minorities themselves. This minority/majority discourse then becomes pervasive throughout Chinese culture, art, and media. In her work Woman and Chinese Modernity, Rey Chow (Chow 1990: 21) also makes the important connection between ethnicity and the construction of Chinese womanhood, but Chow’s is an external argument about the Western construction of China as feminine, while I am linking internal constructions about the minority Other within Chinese society. I also extend the argument to popular culture in general, with a reference to the interesting continuance of this discourse in the film, Ju Dou by Zhang Yimou. Significantly, and here this study makes a contribution to those discussions that attempt to move beyond Edward Said’s Euro-centric “orientalist” critique, the representation of minorities and the majority in Chinese art, literature, and media will be shown to have surprising parallels to the now well-known portrayals of the “East” by Western orientalists. This “oriental orientalism,” and the objectification of the minority Other and majority Self in China, will be shown to be a “derivative discourse,” in Partha Chatterjee’s (Chatterjee 1986:10) terms, stitched from Chinese, Western (namely Morganian and Marxist), and Japanese ideas of nationalism and modernity.

The centrality of “minorities”

19This approach rejects the traditional center–periphery construction of Chinese society, with the so-called “minorities” on the distant margins of Chinese society and nationality. It also challenges the dominant idea that Han Chinese “civilization” dominates discourses about minority identifications in China, or that anyone who came into China, foreigner, minority, or barbarian, was subject to “Sinicization” (Ch’en 1966). In these configurations, Chinese culture functioned simultaneously, to quote James Hevia, as both “sponge and eraser” of foreign cultures: China not only absorbed outsiders, it dissolved them, and the few that survived on the “periphery” were generally thought “uncivilized” or “marginal” to the understanding of Chinese society.

20During my fieldwork I was often surprised to find that many of the reforms in China, whether they be in spheres related to the market economy, privatized agriculture, or religious and political freedom, were first allowed in minority areas, and these often directly influenced the nature and force of change among the Han (see Gladney 1990a). The popular valorization of “minority” culture in China (and in the West) through media, art, and commoditized ethnic tourism, suggest that there is more to it than the “barbarian–civilized” binary model seems to suggest. In this chapter I argue that even in the areas of popular culture, art, film, and moral value, the so-called “peripheral minorities” have played a pivotal role in influencing and constructing contemporary Chinese society and identity. I am addressing public culture in its often state-sponsored production and reproduction, concerning myself more with representations in nationally-distributed media and film, rather than a specific field site.

21I also suggest that the commodification and objectification of minorities in China represents something more than a response to Western consumer tourism, providing the state and modern capitalists with not only hard currency, but also important symbolic capital, to use Bourdieu’s construction (Bourdieu 1977: 6). The exoticization and representation of minorities is an enterprise that took on enhanced importance with the rise of the Chinese nation-state and is central to its nationalization and modernization project: The homogenization of the majority at the expense of the exoticization of the minority. The so-called minorities, long confined to the margins of Western and Chinese theoretical discourse on Chinese society, are no longer marginal, and perhaps never should have been, to our understanding of contemporary China.

The display and commodification of the minority Other in China

Map 9.1. Ethnolinguistic Map of China

Map 9.1. Ethnolinguistic Map of China

22One cannot be exposed to China without being confronted by its “colorful” minorities. They sing, they dance; they twirl, they whirl. Most of all, they smile, showing their happiness to be part of the motherland. The 4-hour Chinese New Year’s program is a yearly special broadcast throughout China to its 1.3 billion population. And, even though only 8 percent of that population is supposed to be minority (the Han majority occupy 91% of China’s population according to the 1990 census), fully one-half of the evening’s programming is devoted to smiling minority dancers. A brief examination of the opening minutes of the evening’s program immediately reveals the crucial role minority peoples play in the contemporary construction of the People’s Republic of China.

23The program begins with a view of the clock tower on the Central Radio and Telegraph Building located on Chang An Avenue striking 8 o’clock, the time for the start of the show that lasts until midnight. It is the most popular program on television during New Year’s Eve, carried on the CCTV Central Broadcasting System that is received throughout China, including Tibet, Mongolia, and even Taiwan and Hong Kong. In my several years of fieldwork in China, I noted that most families from Beijing to Xinjiang on New Year’s Eve preferred to stay at home and watch this program surrounded by relatives and a few close friends. During the 1991 broadcast, I sat with Chinese friends in their apartment in Beijing, and was repeatedly told to sit and watch the program with the rest of the family, even though I preferred to catch up on the local gossip. After the clock shown on the television struck 8:00 p.m., the doors to the elaborate stage opened and revealed a wide array of colorfully dressed minorities advancing onto the stage.

24After a brief introduction to the evening’s program, four well-known television personality hosts wished the audience a “Happy New Year” and initiated the first choreographed program of the evening by stating: “China is a multinational country, 56 different nationalities, like 56 different flowers. The many nationalities wish to extend to all of you a Happy New Years through a special Tea and Wine Happy New Years Toast!” The program follows with first Tibetans, then Mongols, Zhuang, Uzbek, Korean, Wa, Hui, and other minority dancers presenting Buddhist “hata” (scarves), other minority gifts, and cups of tea and wine to the studio audience, singing their native songs in their native languages, with a Chinese translation superimposed on the television screens as subtitles.

Gladney on the TV-Hui
It is noteworthy that though the Hui do not possess their own separate language, and are known for eschewing the ”songs and dances” by which many minorities are iconographically represented in China (see Gladney 1991: 21–30), in this program they sing and dance just like the rest of the performers. Instead of detailed lyrics from a traditional New Year’s folk song (of which there are none), the Hui sing their traditional Arabic greeting, A’salam Alei Cum, over and over again. The Chinese subtitles translate this formulaic greeting as ”Pengyou Nihao” (Friend, hello).

25In striking resemblance to the tribute offerings of the ancient Chinese empires, the minorities, sing and perform ritualized prostrations as they offer their greetings to the studio audience, who appear to be largely members of the Han majority. They appear so, because the studio audience is uniformly (as if in uniforms) dressed in conservative suits with ties, Mao jackets, or other formal dark “Western” attire, which is in marked contrast to the “colorful costumes” of the minority entertainers. Nonminority entertainers and hosts exclusively wore Western-style suits and dresses. The rest of the 4 hours of programming has well over half of its programs been devoted to minority songs and dances.

56 nationalities

26After the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, the state embarked upon a monumental endeavor to identify and recognize as nationalities those who qualified among the hundreds of groups applying for national minority status. The question of one’s nationality, which is registered on one’s passport and all official documents, is determined by Stalinist and historical criteria that determine if one is a member of a group that was ever linguistically, economically, geographically, or “culturally” distinct from the so-called Han majority population (see Fei 1981). This recognition may make a considerable difference in obtaining certain privileges accorded to minorities, in some cases including permission to have more than one child, obtaining entrance to university, having access to local political office, special economic assistance, and tax relief programs. Those who were recognized by the state are always portrayed in the state-sponsored media as happily accepting that objectivized identity, as the caption for a photograph of several minorities in traditional costume pictured in a 1990 brochure introducing the “Nationalities Cultural Palace” (Minzu Wenhua Gong) in Beijing reads: “The Happy People of Various Nationalities.” Significantly, Tiananmen, the Gate of Heavenly Peace, is bordered on both sides by the slogans: “Long Live the People’s Republic of the Chinese People” (Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo wansui) and “Working Peoples of the World, Unite!” (Shijie renmin gongren tuanjie). These state-sponsored signs on public buildings and in the media emphasize for the Chinese populace over and over again that China is a multiethnic and multinational state—a point that is critical to China’s representation of itself to itself, and to the international sphere. China regards itself as a multinational nation-state that must be reckoned with by other multinational, “modern” nation-states.

The myth of democratic representation

27As multinational, China portrays itself as democratic, claiming “autonomous regions, prefectures, counties, and villages” based on the Soviet model, but in name only, since the Chinese constitution does not allow true geopolitical secession—something perhaps the conservative Russian right-wing now wish Stalin would have thought of when he approved a Soviet constitution that allowed for political secession of the (now former) republics. The myth of democratic representation is critical to China’s construction of itself as a modern multinational state, distinguishing and distancing itself from the ancient feudal Chinese empires that did not allow for representation. As Spivak argues, “One of the gifts of the logic of decolonization is parliamentary democracy” (Spivak 1990: 105). Given public criticism over China’s treatment of Tibet, it is not surprising that Tibetans are often represented as the most willing subjects of Chinese “democratic liberation.” In a 1985 issue of the state-sponsored Nationalities Pictorial, a Tibetan is portrayed as happily voting, as if they really did control their own destinies. The caption reads: “Happiness Ballot.” In another published painting in the same issue, several minorities are portrayed on the Great Wall, happily proclaiming in the caption: “I love the Great Wall”—though the Great Wall was primarily built to keep nomadic peoples out. It is also interesting to note that in this figure clearly geared for school children, the figures on the Great Wall, with one exception, are clearly Muslim: the men wear Turkic and Hui (Muslim Chinese) Islamic hats, and the woman is veiled. The oddman out strangely enough is an African. Perhaps he is represented on the wall with the other minorities to represent their ethnic solidarity; more seriously, perhaps it is to emphasize their corporate “primitivity” (i.e., promoting the idea that China’s minorities are like “primitive” Africans), which is key to understanding the position of the minorities in the Marxist-Maoist evolutionary scheme (see below).

Commodified minorities

28The commodification of minorities is accomplished through the representing, packaging, and selling of their images, artworks, and “costumes” in the many pictorial-gazeteers, such as Nationalities Unite (Minzu Tuanjie) and Nationality Pictorial (Minzu Huabao), as well as in museum displays, such as in the “Nationality Cultural Palace,” an enormous exhibition hall and conference center on Chang An Avenue which houses a store selling minority artifacts and costumes as well as temporary exhibitions regarding minority nationalities. It is bordered by the Nationality Hotel and offices of the State Commission for Nationality Affairs, the ministry charged with administrating all dealings with minorities in China. In minority areas there are boutiques, open markets, tourist stores and even “cultural stations” (wenhua zhan, see Schein 1990) where minority goods are collected, displayed, sold, and modeled. Books and sets of photo cards published by the State introduce the 56 nationalities of China and are widely distributed to school children, foreign students, and tourists, and carried by officials on trips abroad as gifts to their host institutions. In baseball card fashion, the back of the card has each group’s statistics: summarizing the nationality’s distinctive history, language, and culture. The nationalities themselves are portrayed on the front by a “representative” iconographic image, generally a picture, of that group, colorful and usually female.

”Internal colonialism”

29It is noteworthy that of the 56 nationalities introduced in the state-sponsored English language pictorial Chinese Nationalities (1989), only 3 minorities are represented in the first picture as males. All 53 others are represented by a beautiful, alluring minority young woman, in a colorful “native” costume. The minorities are almost always portrayed in natural, romantic settings, surrounded by fauna and flora. Significantly, however, the Han are represented in the same book by conservative, middle-aged women, in an urban setting, with what is generally thought to resemble “modern,” Western-coiffed hair, dressed in Western-style sweaters and modest pants and long-sleeve outfits. This displays what the authors perhaps considered to be their modernity, and by extension, their normality, civility, and subjectivity. The authors of Chinese Nationalities chose that photo to represent the Han, not one that bears any resemblance to a “traditional” Chinese society, even though the minorities are always shown in their “traditional” dress. Instead of being represented as singing and dancing, one photo has the Han women with single infants, in strollers. The caption reads: “It’s good to have only one child” (Chinese Nationalities 1989: 20). When minority men are portrayed, and then rarely, they are generally exoticized as strong and virile, practicing strange and humorous customs, or possessing extraordinary physical abilities in sport, work, or the capacity to consume large amounts of alcohol—much more than a typical Han (Chinese Nationalities 1989: 16). “To drink like a Mongol” is a compliment one often hears about one’s drinking ability in China.

30The state, through commodifying and representing its minorities as colorful and exotic engages in a project familiar to the representation of colonized peoples by colonial regimes. By publishing an extraordinary collection of “orientalist” erotic postcards, the Algerian Malek Alloula examines French observations of Algeria, and claims to be sending the postcards back “to its sender” (Alloula 1986: 5), unveiling the role of the “colonial harem” as both orientalizing the Other and subjectivizing the European Self. Through state-sponsored representation of the minority Other as exotic much the same is accomplished in China, only in the context of what Michael Hechter has termed “internal colonialism” (Hechter 1975).

Essentializing the Han

31The representation of the Han as “normal” and “unexotic” is critical for understanding the construction of present-day Chinese identity. Just as Peter Worsley has shown that the discourse of First and Third Worlds helps to confirm the so-called First World’s superiority (see Worsley 1984), the subordination of nationalities in China leads to the clear promotion of the Han to the vanguard of the peoples of the People’s Republic. While research on the rise of Russian nationalism has been popular in Soviet studies since the 1970s, both by foreign and Russian scholars, as yet no larger studies of the creation of Han nationalism have emerged—perhaps because it is often assumed that “Han” is generally equal to “Chinese.” Few have questioned how the Han became the ninety-one percent majority of China. Yet in China, identity papers register one not as “Chinese” (Zhongguo ren), but as Han, Hui, Manchu, or one of 56 stipulated identities. In China, national identity is not only “imagined,” it is stamped on one’s passport.

Han modernity and the construction of primitivity

32The Han are frequently represented as somewhere near the “modern” end of a Marxist historical trajectory upon which China’s minorities must journey. Much of this derives from a continued commitment in Chinese social science to the study of minorities as “living fossils” indicating the origins of “primitive communism.” Matrilineality, communal living, and property holding, and even extramarital sexuality among the minorities all become “proofs” of how far the Han have come. Chinese Marxist social science has been heavily influenced by stage evolutionary theory, particularly as represented in the writings of the American anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan. In his famous 1878 treatise, Ancient Society, Morgan described in his first chapter, entitled the “Ethnical Period,” the development of society from savagery, to barbarism, and then to civilization. Tong Enzheng, the Sichuanese anthropologist and museologist, was one of the earliest to publicly criticize Chinese anthropology’s heavy reliance, almost reverence, for this theory of societal evolution.

Tong Enzheng on Morgan’s stage theory:​~bgordon/​Rice/​papers/​tong89.rtf

33In China, minority studies became an avenue for proving Morgan (and it was believed, Marxist thought in general) to be right, over and over again, through the examination of minorities as representatives of earlier forms of society, “living fossils” of savagery and barbarism The Han, as representative of “higher” forms of civilization, were clearly more evolved, and were to lead the way for minorities to follow.

34As if to underline the continued dominance of this theory, Fei Xiaotong, China’s most revered social scientist, presented a 1988 Tanner lecture in Hong Kong, entitled “Plurality and Unity in the Configuration of the Chinese Nationality,” which was latter published in the Beijing University Journal. In the chapter, Fei traced the rise of the Han people from multiethnic origins prior to the Qin dynasty, and their almost unilineal descent down to the present day, despite absorbing and being conquered by various foreign tribes and nations.

As soon as it came into being, the Han nationality became a nucleus of concentration. Its people radiated in all directions into the areas around it and, centripetally, absorbed them into their own groups and made them a part of themselves ... As the non-Han rulers’ regimes were mostly short-lived, one minority conqueror was soon replaced by another, and eventually all were assimilated into the Han ... But as the national minorities generally are inferior to the Han in the level of culture and technology indispensable for the development of modern industry, they would find it difficult to undertake industrial projects in their own regions, their advantage of natural resources notwithstanding ... Therefore, our principle is for the better developed groups to help the underdeveloped ones by furnishing economic and cultural aids (Fei 1989: 39, 45, 47, 52, excerpts from Fei’s article are taken from the English transcript of the Tanner lecture, which has not yet been published).

35Fei Xiaotong’s understanding of national identity and social development is based on a strong commitment to Stalinist-Leninist nationality policy, based on Morgan’s theory of stage development evolutionism, and Engels’ prediction of the withering away of class and national identity with the removal of private property. While there are many nationalities in China, the Han are defined to be in the cultural and technical vanguard, the manifest destiny of all the minorities. While many younger scholars, like Tong Enzheng, are beginning to challenge the dominance of the Marxist–Stalin-ist–Morganian paradigm, it still heavily influences the popular discourse regarding nationalism and Han superiority in China, as well as state policy.

“Amazing Marriage Customs”

  • 1 Directed by Suen Wan and Guo Wuji, 1992.

36The popularity of this discourse is evidenced by a recent film, Amazing Marriage Customs1 (Jingu Hunsu Qiguai, literally “Strange modern and ancient marriage customs”), distributed by the Nanhai Film Company. Filmed entirely in China with government support, the film is a survey of marriage customs throughout China, with a heavy dose of minority practices, especially in Yunnan. What is noteworthy about the film is not the typical exoticization and eroticization of minorities as described below, but the deliberate structuring of the film along stage evolutionary theory. At the beginning of the film, we are shown primeval visions of a neolithic past and the emergence of primitive mankind. The narrator intones:

37Getting married is natural, but during long period [sic] in history, men had no idea of ‘love’ and ‘marriage’. From the ‘childhood’ of human history, 3,000,000 BC to the end of matrilineal society in 5000 BC, marriage history transits from group marriage, polygamy, to monogamy stage [sic]. Each stage has its own development, traces of which could be found, only three decades ago in China . From 3,000,000 BC to 1,000,000 BC human society began to form. There was nothing called marriage, or it was called primitive promiscuity [yuanshi luanhun de jiedu-an, lit., “stage of primitive confused marriage”]. From 1,000,000 BC to 100,000 BC human society divided into blood families [xueyuan jiazu]. Promiscuity existed, called consanguine group marriage. In matrilineal society, group marriage outside tribe [sic] started. In ancient society, nothing called marriage could be found in group marriage. The relationship was casual.

Other films on minority marriage customs
A similar film survey of minority marriage customs produced in Hong Kong by the Wah Ngai Film Production and King Video is entitled: The Inside Story of the Great Southwestern Forbidden Borderlands (Da Xinan Jinjing Tanmi, 1990). In this film, however, there is one incident where the Bai nationality in Yunnan is described as being so “hospitable” that the host offers his wife to the guest as a sexual partner. The “custom” is then enacted on film.
Y Na Woman of a Thousand Places (1992), a film by Yvette M. Torell, replicates this exoticized portrayal of Dai, Naxi, Bai, and Tibetan women in Yunnan and Tibet, complete with the now mandatory Thai bathing scene, in a well-worn, inaccurate representation of the “Naxi” matrilineality. For an excellent critique of this mistaken view see McKhann (1989). Torell’s introduction invites the viewer to learn from their “matriarchy.” It is noteworthy that these films, like minority representation in general in China, focus almost exclusively on women and sexual relations.

38The film then presents a succession of minorities in various stages of transition from “matrilineality” to “patrilineality,” including intimate scenes of marriage and mating rites among the Naxi, Dong, Bouyi, Yao, Hani, Wa (Va), Mosuo, Zhuang, and Miao (Hmong). Several of these groups are described as practicing “free love” and very “open to sex.” In one scene, Dong women are shown bathing in the river, only barely covered by their triangular tops, and as the camera focuses on exposed breasts, the narrator states: “The (women) take a bath in the river after work, what a lovely scene. The scenery is beautiful enough, they make it more fascinating.” In one particularly explicit bathing section featuring Miao (Hmong) women, the camera zooms in on a group of women disrobing completely in the river, and with long lens shots taken through the grass in a voyeuristic fashion, the narrator notes the arrival of several men:

They’ve asked their lovers to come. What for? To watch! A thorough examination indeed! If he’s satisfied, must do something [sic], in a very polite way of course. He present her a red ribbon, in a serious manner. Very happy indeed! The ribbon is a token for engagement. With this token she is somebody’s. How romantic!

39Following the “matrilineal” section, the film introduces the Uyghur Turkic Muslims of Xinjiang. “Islam,” we are told, “respects patriarchy and husband right.” And “women are subordinate.” The final scene begins with views of the Tiananmen and Forbidden City and, against a background of Han couples dating in the park, the narrator states:

The characteristic of modern marriage is freedom, monogamy, and equality between sexes. The law of marriage stipulates ... No force on either side. Or a third party interfering! Love is most essential in modern marriage. Having love affairs [tan lianai, lit., “speaking about love relations”] is a prelude of marriage. In the countryside of Beijing you may observe this wonderful prelude.

40The film then notes that in a “modern large” city it is often difficult to find a mate, and therefore computerized dating is featured as a “modern” solution for finding a mate. The film culminates with a grand mass wedding of 100 couples, dressed in formal Western attire, who were actually married at the Beijing Hotel as a result of successful computerized matchmaking. The narrator concludes: “Monogamy means equality between the sexes. This harmonious union of love, marriage, and sex life notes the result of evolution in history.” By the end of the film, the viewer is left with the distinct feeling that the minorities and “primitives” had more fun.

The ”unmarked” nature of Han identity

41The minorities play a very important role in China’s official vision of history, nationality, and development. Their “primitivity” contrasts with supposed Han “modernity.” Minorities become a marked category, characterized by sensuality, colorfulness, and exotic custom. This contrasts with the “unmarked” nature of Han identity. “Hanness” for the Chinese connotes civility and modernity, and this is perhaps why more “educated” minorities such as the Manchu and Koreans, are never exoticized as sensual or primitive. The Han, though they supposedly comprise 91.2 percent of China’s population, are rarely described or studied as Han per se, whereas whole research centers and colleges are devoted to the study and teaching of minorities in China. Anthropologists of Euro-American society have begun to note a similar process in the unmarked majority category of “whiteness.” Majorities, according to Virginia Dominguez’s revealing study of Louisiana Creole identity, become “White, by definition” (Dominguez 1986). It is only the so-called “ethnics” (a term in the Oxford English Dictionary that comes into the English idiom as denoting “heathen”), who are marked by “culture.” Majorities by extension, become denaturalized, homogenized, and essentialized as “same.” This is particularly true, it seems, of Asia, where large blocks of Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans are thought to be “homogeneous.”

Hobsbawm on the homogeneity of Asian states
Eric Hobsbawm repeats this widely accepted idea of Asian majority monoethnicity in his classic work, Nations and Nationalism since 1780. ”...China, Korea, and Japan, which are indeed among the extremely rare examples of historic states composed of a population that is ethnically almost or entirely homogeneous.” Hobsbawm continues: ”Thus of the (non-Arab) Asian states today, Japan and the two Koreas are 99% homogeneous, and 94% of the People’s Republic of China are Han” (Hobsbawm 1990: 66, nt. 37).

42In the West, it is “whiteness” that is beginning to be problematized in the effort to scrutinize and come to terms with minority/majority discourses. This has yet to be done with “Hanness” in China.

Deconstructing whiteness
Dominguez chronicles the ”veritable explosion” of defenses of white Creole ancestry in New Orleans once increasing polarization of white/black racial categories called attention to their identification with ”blacks” despite their physical appearance as ”whites” (Dominguez 1986: 140 ff). For problematizing ”whiteness,” see also Frankenberg’s excellent White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness (Frankenberg 1993).

Exoticizing and eroticizing minorities in China

43While minorities are no longer portrayed as barbarians in China, and many of the disparaging Chinese ideographs that formerly scripted their names with “dog” and “bug” radicals were changed in 1949, their portrayal in public media is not only much more “colorful” and “cultural” than the Han (thanks perhaps to Stalin, whose four criteria the Chinese State adopted for recognizing a people as a nationality included “culture”), but also much more sensual. One of the favorite themes is that of minority women, especially the Dai (Thai), Hani, and Li, bathing in the river.

Bathing in the river

  • 2 For publication of photographs of Yuan Yunsheng’s airport murals, see “Magnificent Paintings: The (...)

44The image of Dai (Thai) and other minority women bathing in the river has become a leitmotif for ethnic sensuality in China, and often appears in stylized images throughout China, particularly on large murals in restaurants and public spaces. School children are often encouraged to make wood-block prints of Thai bathers and other exotic representations of minorities. One of the most famous incidents regarding the public portrayal of minority nudes in China was that of the Beijing Capital Airport. Yuan Yunsheng returned from 16 years of exile in Manchuria to be assigned by the state to paint a mural at the Beijing airport2 in 1979. He chose for his subject the Dai (Thai)

45For publication of photographs of Yuan Yunsheng’s airport murals, see “Magnificent Paintings: The Murals of the Beijing International Airport,” China Pictorial, 1980 (1), pp. 18-31; and Cohen 1987: 28-36. people of Xishuangbanna, whom he portrayed in his “Water Festival, Song of Life” on the background of a floral jungle motif, working, dancing, and, of course, bathing. However, the bathing mural on one side of the room eventually proved too problematic, and it was covered up in March 1980. Although the mural was proudly displayed in many official Chinese publications from October 1979 to early 1980, minority cadres from Yunnan began to object that the bathing mural was simply too offensive for public display and denigrating to minorities (Lufkin 1990: 35). It had also been causing a disruption in the dining room where it was exhibited due to the crowds of people who went to view it.

46While the nudes eventually proved so controversial that the mural was covered up, and I understand that it has since been uncovered, covered, and uncovered again, I would argue that as the murals were commissioned and approved in the first place—displayed for nearly half a year—this indicated that the nude and even erotic portrayal of minority women was officially sanctioned. Partly as a result of this popular image, many northern Chinese, like the friends of my taxi driver, have flocked to minority areas to voyeuristically gaze upon this minority “custom,” to the extent that there are now few minority women who continue to bathe this way in the more densely populated areas. From the statement of the driver at the start of the chapter, and the reported presence of “sex tours” to Yunnan and other minority areas, it can be argued Thai and other minority women in China have become at a popular level, in Camille Paglia’s terms (Paglia 1990: 40), the ultimate “sexual personae” for the “Eastern Eye” of the broader Han Chinese society.

Edwards on gender and nation
The racial configuration of the nation is intimately bound up with notions of women and gender. We can interpret eroticized and feminized visions of nationalities as compensating for the idea of (Han) women corrupted by modernity. There are many examples of the feminization of the exotic and pristine, a phenomenon that scholars have generally linked to Western imperialism. In French Indochinese literature, the sensual, feminized colony was contrasted by the corrupted, modernized, unfeminine European female.
On the other hand, 19th century evolutionary discourses (see Dokötter’s chapter) gave rise to the notion of the womb as a critical site of national and racial reproduction and of the woman as guardian of racial purity, as biological and cultural reproducers of the nation. (This occurred in the late 19th century, linked to declining birth rates, especially in France after the 1870 defeat in the Franco-Prussian war.) Women in France, Britain and elsewhere were urged in official propaganda and government policies to go and join their husbands overseas in ”heathen” Asian lands and to save their race from the contamination of miscegenation by rescuing their husbands from the arms of Asian women.

47This objectified minority woman exudes sexuality, the very opposite of the Nefertiti-like portrayal of chaste, reserved, and bound women, which Paglia argues became the model for the Western woman, but has also come to denote “modernity” for Chinese women, similarly restrained in their “ritual bonds” (Paglia 1990: 71). While it may be argued whether the images of minority women bathers are actually “erotic” or “sensual” in the eye of the beholder, they are clearly images that do not apply to Han women, who are generally represented as covered, conservative, and “civilized” in most state publications. Nudity is often idealized and romanticized in China as being natural, free, and divorced from the constraints and realities of “modern” life. Minorities become likely subjects for such romantic yearnings. Here the audience becomes an important issue, but as in any discussion of public culture this is difficult to assess. Suffice it to note that in official public arenas, such as airports, hotels, and government offices, images of naked Han women are rarely found. Representations of unveiled minority women are frequently found in the official public sphere.

Costumes versus clothes

48In her perceptive article on the popular David Henry Hwang play, M. Butterfly, Garber stresses the importance of clothing in making the link between gender representation and transvestism (Garber 1992: 123). The link between clothing and nationality, in which minorities are generally dressed in “costumes,” while the majorities merely wear “clothes,” is clearly made in Chinese museums, popular culture, and film. The changing of clothes and the altering of a restricted Han Self is precisely the basis for the 1985 movie, Sacrificed Youth (Qing qun ji). In this film by the Beijing film studio’s woman director, Zhang Nuanxin, a young Han woman from Beijing is sent down during the Cultural Revolution to the Thai (Dai) minority region of Yunnan in Xishuangbanna, near the border of Burma and Thailand, where she is confronted by more “liberated” Thai female customs. She wishes that she could be as free, and in a moment of rebellious assertion and self-transformation, she exchanges her drab, blue worker’s clothes for a Thai Sarong, whereupon she is pronounced “beautiful” by her Thai hosts and girlfriends. This leads her further on the road to self-criticism and the cultural critique of repressed Han identity. In this instance of retailoring the nation, to borrow a phrase from Parker, et al., for Duoli, the Han woman, cross-dressing becomes a transnational political act (Parker, et al. 1992: 120).

49In another scene of Sacrificed Youth, Thai women are shown in the classic cultural trope as freely bathing nude in the river—a rare bit of soft porn for a 1985 film in China. The protagonist of the film observes the Thai women swimming from a distance and wishes that she was not so inhibited by her Han mores that she did not feel she could join them without her swimsuit. “Later,” she declares, “I learned to swim like they did, and I never wore a swimsuit again.” The bathing scene is prefaced by an encounter between a group of Thai young working women and men, who stop to sing antiphonal sexually suggestive songs to each other. Here too, the sent-down Han observer declares: “I could not join them, which made me feel inhibited and culturally behind.” Admiration for minority sexual freedom and “natural” state of being, becomes the foil by which Han majority and state-supported values are criticized. Both scenes are introduced and concluded by long shots of verdant, rushing waterfalls, suggesting perhaps that it is the natural sphere, with its cleansing element of water, that transform what the state denigrates for Han as erotic and perhaps “pornographic” into what is natural and unfettered.

Pornography in China

Gladney on restrictions on pornography in China
Though prohibited as pornographic for the general populace, it is possible to view foreign films with sex and nude scenes in various elite universities and training institutes. In 1983, I viewed the uncensored version of ”Kramer vs. Kramer”—considered very huang (pornographic)—at the Beijing Foreign Languages Institute with a group of Chinese English students, their spouses, friends, and several cadres of the university. Chinese colleagues frequently complained to me that literature and films regarded as pornographic and illegal for common people were readily available to elite government officials and their families. Explicit foreign films are also widely shown in the joint-venture hotels throughout China, and such access to these and other ”Western” luxuries is one reason Chinese youth envy those who can obtain jobs there.
Here, I must make very clear, the difference between what is erotic and pornographic in China is defined by what the state regards as legal and illegal. The point here is not about eroticism in general, it is that in China representations of Han subjects classed by the state as pornographic would not be illegal, and thus only erotic, if the Hans were dressed as minorities. In China, ”erotic” is generally glossed as xing aide, or that which influences or encourages sexual love; whereas ”pornographic” is generally translated as seqing, or literally, ”colorful sentiment,” obliquely referring to the color yellow, which refers specifically to the pornographic press.

50Pornography in any form is restricted in China as illegal. This includes any publication, foreign or domestic, that the state censors regard as morally inappropriate for its broader population. Foreign visitors in the past were regularly searched upon entry for magazines, books, and videos regarded as pornographic, and there are regular police raids upon a burgeoning black market industry of (literally) underground video parlors and markets for erotic literature.

Gladney on legalized ”private video rooms”
Legalized ”private video rooms” (geti luxiangyuan) are found in most cities and towns in China, showing films imported from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the West, which are frequently monitored by the local police. They are also known to show slightly risque or even ”hardcore” erotic films late at night when the authorities are not around. Even in remote rural areas, where the police are fewer and farther between, these parlors are not unusual.
I recall late one night in May 1985 passing by one such parlor with a long line out front, whose ticket prices had been increased from 15 fen (cents) during the day to 5 yuan (Chinese dollars, equivalent then to slightly less than US $2.00) due to what I was told to be the very ”yellow” (huang, the Chinese euphemism for pornographic subject matter) nature of the Hong Kong film. This parlor was quite popular, even though it was located in a Muslim minority area, within the Hezhou Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu.

51While there has been a profusion of illicit pornographic material in the 1990s and it has become much more widely available in urban areas, it is still illegal and arrests may be made. In the mid-1980s a wide variety of magazines and books with sexually suggestive titles and scantily clothed men and women proliferated throughout the nation’s bookstores and news stands. Particularly popular was the jian mei (“make, or establish, beauty”) genre of athletic magazines and playing cards which portrayed mainly Han Chinese and foreigners lifting weights or posing in skimpy bathing suits. State censors prohibit depiction of total nudity and these publications were frequently reviewed and confiscated. Yet despite this severe restriction upon and preoccupation with the sale of nude representations of foreign and Han Chinese women, throughout China, in state-sponsored media as well as foreign and domestic tourist shops, images of nude minority women are publicly displayed, National Geographic-style, in various suggestive poses. Not only are nude representations of minorities displayed in galleries and public spaces like the Beijing Capital Airport (see below), but they are readily available for sale in hotel tourist boutiques and minority crafts shops, such as the Central Institute for Nationalities Minority Handicrafts Store and the Nationalities Cultural Palace.

Chinese erotic art and literature

Fig. 9.2. Ting Shao Kuang, Silk Road. In Ting Shao Kuang, 1990, 7.

Sex in China, He Yin Yang Fang Important Methods of the Jade ChamberBook of the Mysterious Penetrating Master3Dream of Red Chambers On the Water Margins

An Exhibition of Nude Art
Luoti Huaxiang Zhanlan, shown in 1988 at the Beijing Fine Art Museum, was the first since the founding of the People’s Republic to specifically exhibit nudes. Although it also included many minority nudes, it was closed after less than two weeks, despite enormous ticket sales at more than ten times the normal price (5 yuan instead of 10 fen, equal to US $2.00 instead of the normal US $0.03).
The state justified the closing of the exhibition because it claimed that many of the female models had objected to the public exhibition of their nude portraits as immoral. The models’ husbands publicly complained of being the brunt of others’ jokes, and claimed that their wives were no longer safe from attack. The state apparently has never been worried about this problem where minority women models and their husbands were concerned.

The repression of Han sexuality

52If erotic images and public portrayals of Han Chinese sexuality are an acknowledged aspect of everyday life in traditional China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, why have they been so absent, so repressed, in the China mainland since 1949? George Mosse’s argument linking totalitarianism and sexuality might have some bearing here. Mosse argues that unlicensed sexuality represents a threat to totalizing states (Mosse 1985). If Foucault is correct that the “policing of sex” is an important component in maintaining the unmitigated power of the central state (Foucault 1980: 24), then China’s repressive prudishness is perhaps the best example of this endeavor. The policing of sex tends to also roughly coincide with radical leftist authoritarian campaigns in China, e.g., the 1966–1976 Cultural Revolution, the 1984 Spiritual Pollution campaign, and the more recent post-Tiananmen 1989–90 Six Evils campaign, in which public sexuality, pornography, and prostitution were all condemned as “feudalist” and thought to be an insidious part of the “democratic” or liberal movements that led to the crackdowns. In July 1990, the Vice President of China’s Supreme People’s Court, Lin Zhu, issued a new decree that traffickers in prostitution and for pornography would be subject to the death penalty (Sing Tao Daily, 18 July 1990, cited in Ruan 1991: 180). China is one of the few non-Islamic nations where prostitutes, pimps, and purveyors of pornography are routinely rounded up, imprisoned, and even, perhaps, executed under the “hoodlum offenses” statute.

Gladney on the official crackdown on prostitution and pornography
Ruan reports that a crackdown on prostitution and pornography announced by Li Ruihuan in September 1989 netted 103 prostitutes in Beijing alone between November 25–Decem-ber 15 (Ruan 1991: 83, citing a People’s Daily 15 February 1990 article). The Vice Minister of the Public Security Bureau reported that by January 1990, there had been 35,000 separate cases prosecuted, involving 79,000 prostitutes and their customers. On 16 April 1993 Reuters reported a Beijing Evening News story that Wang Shuxiang was sentenced to death by the Beijing Intermediate Court for selling pornography and illegally trading in publishing quotas.
The New York Times (Kristof, 13 February 1992: A7) reported the arrest of Pan Weiming, the 42-year-old former chief of propaganda in Shanghai, for his aim to ”philander with women.” A well-known prodemocracy advocate, the Chinese Public Security Bureau managed to arrest him and give him a 4-year sentence for soliciting a prostitute in Sichuan. Supporters argue it was a set-up, however, as the entrapment procedure involved videos in the hotel room and a long-term surveillance of his activities, with subsequent interrogation reportedly focusing more on his prodemocracy contacts than his well-known sexual dalliances. In a recent crackdown, the Sichuan Fine Arts Publishing House was closed down for printing obscene books, and two others were cited (Turkish Daily News, 22 April 1993: 2). The reporter noted: ”Chinese authorities have a very broad definition of pornography that often includes just about any depiction of the human body that is not in a medical or scientific context.”

53Slightly explicit films such as Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum, and more recent, Ju Dou, all proposed, approved, funded, and produced by the state during more liberal periods, are routinely banned once more radical political winds prevail. In other studies, Ardener (Ardener 1987: 114) and Mayer (Mayer 1975: 260) have shown how “prudery” serves to reinforce, and even invent, social hierarchies. In China, enforced prudishness and controlled fertility among the Han, as opposed to represented minority sensuality, serves the state’s national project of emphasizing Han solidarity, civility, and modernity.

54Sex becomes one of the most public of private contested political spaces in China. In a state that regularly monitors the monthly menses of its women workers, engages in Malthusian birth-planning programs, and strictly regulates the age at which one can marry (21 for women, 22 for men), it is not surprising that sexuality has become highly politicized. Elsewhere, I have discussed the role that liberated sexuality played in the Tiananmen Square student protest, particularly in the student’s public attempt to wrest political control of their bodies away from the state (Gladney 1990c). Here, I am arguing that it is the repression and control of sexuality among the Han, and its open representation among the minorities, which demonstrate the important role eroticization of the engendered minority Other plays in the Han construction of Self.

The invention of the Yunnan School

55In the early 1980s, several northern Han painters were assigned to southern China to paint minorities and other “appropriate” subjects, leading to what has since been called the “Yunnan School” (Yunnan huapai) of modern Chinese painting. The Yunnan School has been regarded as one of the first distinct “schools” to emerge in contemporary Chinese art and has had a tremendous influence on the current generation of artists in China. In the early 1980s, Jiang Tiefang, Ting Shao Kuang, and He Neng became known in China for challenging accepted norms of painting, particularly including nudes with accentuated breasts in brilliant colors. This led, according to Joan Lebold Cohen, noted critic and dealer of Chinese art, to the founding of the “Yunnan School of Heavy Oil Painting in 1982” (Cohen 1988).

56It is significant that Ting Shao Kuang, one of the most prominent and successful members of the “school” has stated repeatedly that there is no such organized “school,” rather his and others’ similar work represents a style of art that is new in its subject matter (mainly minorities), and style (use of heavy oil and bright colors in abstract forms). In a 11 July 1992 taped interview with Ting Shao Kuang by the Los Angeles Chinese television station, Channel 18, Ting stated: “There is no such thing as the Yunnan Art School. We are all different artists from China trying to revolutionize the repressed mainland Chinese painting through the use of minority subjects, sexuality, and heavy oil colors, in often Western-influenced styles.” It is revealing that Ting should now say this, since one of his well-known paintings is entitled “Dawn of the Yunnan Art School” (Ting 1990: 11), and he has become one of the wealthiest and most successful representatives of the Yunnan Art School style.

57The “Yunnan School” may very well exist only in the West, where it has met with financial tremendous success. Joan Cohen, claiming that the school represents a “renaissance” in Chinese painting, suggests that the most significant event in the development of the Yunnan School was when He Neng, Jiang Tiefang, and Liu Shaohui were commissioned to produce paintings for a documentary film project, “featuring the costumes, habits and environment of the various minority peoples living in Yunnan” (Cohen 1988: 5). By traveling to the minority areas, Cohen explains, the northern Han artists found that they could express many of their artistic interests through the color and style of minority representation.

58Liu Bingjiang’s “Nude,” shown at the Oil Painting Research Association Exhibition in Beijing 1979, is clearly a minority representation, indicative of early Yunnan School tendencies. On a colorful background, a dark-skinned female nude is realistically portrayed kneeling with her hands on the ground in a submissive posture, wearing nothing but her jewelry. Given the tapestry background, her jewelry, and most importantly, the posture, the painting is one of the earliest works in the Yunnan School style. According to Cohen, her kneeling position is not within the officially sanctioned “academic painting repertoire” and thus suggests to Cohen a “South Asian” influence (Cohen 1987:46). It is important to note that the bracelets she wears clearly resemble shackles and, combined with the posture, the painting evokes erotic subservience and submission.

59Unlike abstract Han figure paintings, it has been and still is officially acceptable to vividly and realistically paint, exhibit, and sell minority nude artwork. In another example, Chen Zhangpeng’s oil of a nude is appropriately titled “Innocence.” Reflecting Western influence, especially Gauguin, Picasso, and even Andrew Wyeth, this painting situates the exoticized minority subject in both the past and the present. Joan Cohen’s caption explains: “Chen’s sketchy study of a nude kneeling next to a tiger expresses the ancient Chinese idea that the untrammeled nature of the wild creature is innocent. Likewise, primitive people, uncorrupted by civilization, are innocent, a concept similar to Rousseau’s romantic notion of the noble savage” (Cohen 1987: 65).

60The “innocence” of minorities in China contrasts well with representations of Han Chinese women as the modern workers of the industrialized nation, who, Chairman Mao once declared, “hold up half the sky.” The notion that the minorities represent the beautiful “noble savage,” unsullied by Chinese political machinations and the degradations of modern Chinese society is an important theme for China’s modern artists. It may very well represent a Gauguinesque romanticization of the “savage” in contrast to the modern alienation of Chinese urban life. It may also be viewed as a cultural critique, or rejection, of modern Han China; an accepted venue for criticizing the depersonalizing, totalitarian state.

61In an interview with the Yunnan painter, Xiao Jiahe, a former student of Jiang Tiefang, and himself the son of an intermarriage between a Han and a Jingpo, he stated that the reason he liked to paint minorities was, “They are pure and beautiful. It makes me feel peaceful when I paint them.” When I asked him why seven of the ten paintings in his exhibition with such titles as Ancient Girl, Tara’s Toilette, Summer Solstice, Blossoms, Morning Prayers, and Homage at the Spring, portrayed minority women in kneeling, submissive poses, with voluptuous scantily-clothed figures, he said: “Because I like the human body, and I think this portrays the essence of female beauty. Its also difficult to capture an entire woman’s body in a small painting if she is standing” (personal interview, 30 July 1991). It is significant that in later conversations, Xiao Jiahe explained that once he came to the States, he was urged by American gallery owners and agents, particularly the Allen H. Fingerhut Group, who strongly promote most of the Yunnan Art School paintings (and published Cohen’s 1988 book on the “Yunnan School”), to increase his use of motifs and colors popularized by the Yunnan Art School, since it sold well in the U.S. “They told me to use more pastel, gold, and bright colors; to paint beautiful, large-breasted women in elongated form, and to use ‘ethnic’ clothing. I even included a lot of African clothing because of my interest in Africa. I tried to make my art look more erotic (xing aide) but not pornographic (se qing)” (personal interview, 30 July 1991). Though most of his artwork was popularly received, comments from viewers at one of his exhibits, critical of his representation of minority women, caused him to reevaluate the Yunnan Art School style. “I have since rejected the Yunnan Art School,” he told me in a later interview (29 February 1992), “they are only interested in making money, repeating the same old saleable paintings. It is too repetitious. It is not art. ... I refuse to jeopardize my artistic career just to make money.”

Exhibition comments on Xiao Jiahe’s works
included the following:
”Your work reminds me of Gustav Klimt’s gold period, Picasso’s colors after Cubism, Kokoschka’s hands, Miro’s organic shapes, Native American Indian women ...”
”An enthralling body of works, full of magical shapes and curves, flowing like everlasting rivers. A joy to see.”
”Talented, yes! Evocative, yes! But because your main subject in this exhibition is young, nubile women (one model?), I could see you having commercial success in advertising art.”
”I feel that the two best paintings were the one of the peasant and the weaver’s daughter. You unquestionably have tremendous talent, however, what distinguishes these two over the others was the subject. The beautiful young woman in each painting offers no insights into the female human being. She is more object than an exploration of the subject ...”
(Hand-written comments from the July 5-30, 1991 exhibition, ”Works by Chinese Artist Xiao Jiahe,” Memorial Union, University of Wisconsin, Madison).

”Primitive art”

62By objectifying minority women as colorful, exotic, and erotic, robbing them of their individuality, and subjectivity, these Chinese artists are engaging in an anthropological enterprise well established by Lewis Henry Morgan, Frantz Boas, and other early American Historicists who posited a “common psyche” shared by all primitives. Though Boas and later anthropologists stressed individual contributions to the construction of cultural artifacts, and through painstaking ethnographic work brought to light the individual contributions of many “primitive artists,” his commitment to the notion of a common cultural determinism and psyche in artistic construction nevertheless contributed to the objectification of the minority Other. In his path-breaking 1927 study of Primitive Art, Boas revealingly wrote: “The same motive recurs over and over again in the tales of primitive people, so that a large mass of material collected from the same tribe is liable to be very monotonous, and after a certain point has been reached only new variants of old themes are obtained” (Boas 1927 [1955]: 330). It is precisely the repetitive nature of “primitive” art construed as generic, unsigned, and anonymous that makes it so attractive to the “modern” collector: since primitives are all similar in their artistic representations, their artwork and thought patterns homogenized by a uniform culture, why should one piece of art need a signature? According to Sally Price, it is their anonymity and timelessness that makes primitive art so attractive to the time-bound, modern individual: “In the Western understanding of things, a work originating outside of the Great Traditions must have been produced by an unnamed figure who represents his community and whose craftsmanship respects the dictates of its age-old traditions” (Price 1989: 56).

63Significantly, the use of “traditional” minority art, colors, and styles may be said to have paved the way for the public reintroduction of the Han nude in China, but only in a very highly stylized, Picasso-like form. Western motifs, styles, and color, with minority subjects, become a thinly veiled means of challenging traditional Chinese artistic conventions. Han female nudes, when they are officially and publicly represented at all, are generally in highly stylized forms, often in the Picasso genre, as a famous oil, “Daughter of the Sea,” by Jiang Tilfang demonstrates. On a brochure featuring a print of Jiang’s 1988 “Playing Water,” there is an eroticized and Picassoesque portrayal of the Yunnan Thai water-festival, including black sensuous dancing figures, with large breasts and nipples accentuated in bright red colors. The backside of the promotional brochure reads:

64Jiang Tilfang is the most influential contemporary artist of the People’s Republic of China. His “Yunnan School” represents the first new Chinese art movement in 700 years, and the rebirth of artistic traditions that have been repressed since the Ming Dynasty (Fingerhut Group Publishers, painting brochure, 1992).

A great success

65The Picassoesque portrayal of Han women and the abstract representations of the minority women have become so popular now in the West that not only have Chinese artists like Jiang Tiefang, He Neng and Ting Shao Kuang become extraordinarily successful and wealthy, purchasing houses in Bel Air and Beverly Hills, but they have spawned a whole lucrative industry now sweeping the upscale art industry in China and abroad. After a visit to a Shanghai exhibition of his work in Spring 1992, Ting told me that he was literally mobbed by his fans. “If I had painted Han that way when I was in China before, they probably would have arrested me. Now I am a hero” (personal interview, 11 July 1992).

66The Austin Galleries is a series of chic art dealerships with galleries in Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Carmel, and Laguna Beach. At the well-appointed Chicago gallery, I was attracted in November 1991 by the large Yunnan School painting of a minority dancer prominently displayed in the glass case fronting onto Michigan Avenue. Not only were there several Yunnan School-style paintings by a Han Chinese immigrant, Wu Jian, but there were similar versions by a certain artist, Wong Shue, who turned out to be originally from Jamaica. The gallery consultant, Bella Cipkin, explained that the genre is the most popular selling artwork in the gallery, with large paintings selling for $8–10,000, and many artists are beginning to copy the flowing, colorful style. She stated that it was the most popular art form to come along in years and sold the fastest in all seven of the Austin Galleries. Cipkin noted: “The mauve colors and liberating minority art in its breathtaking sensuality goes well with the furnishings in professional’s homes.” She also went on to suggest that one of the reasons the art might be becoming more popular in the U.S. was because it represented minority art: “What with the problems in Tibet and all, Americans want to support the ethnic people in China all they can.” It is important to note here, of course, that very little of the Yunnan School art is produced by minorities themselves.

Marginalizing the center of Chinese film

67“Minorities film” has followed oil painting in reforming the accepted norms of Chinese taste. Paul Clark (1987a: 20), noted critic of Chinese film, argues that it is the “propensity of minorities film to explore normally avoided subjects” that made them so successful and influential. In a 1988 Channel Four documentary on “New Chinese Cinema,” Wu Tianming, the director of the now famous Xi’an Film Studio, where many of the influential “fifth generation” filmmakers were working (including Zhang Yimou, Tian Zhuangzhuang, and Chen Kaige), quoted a Chinese proverb: “When there’s no tiger on the mountain, the monkey is king,” indicating that it is distance from the centers of power such as Beijing and Shanghai which allowed his studio the freedom for exploration. In the Channel Four documentary, the young director of the new, more realistic minority films, On the Hunting Ground (1985) and Horsethief (1986), Tian Zhuangzhuang, explained why he chose to film in minority areas:

I had several reasons. For one, Beijing Film Studios wouldn’t let us direct when we were assigned there ... On the Hunting Ground and Horsethief may deal with regional minorities [lit: minority nationalities], but they’re actually about the fate of the whole Chinese nation.

68According to Paul Clark in his analysis of Chinese cinema, it is the search for a “national style” (minzu fengge) that was lacking among the Han which director’s found among minorities. “Paradoxically, one of the most effective ways to make films with ‘Chinese’ style was to go to the most ‘foreign’ cultural areas in the nation” (Clark 1987b: 101). The search for a national identity in China apparently became more readily understood in opposition and contrast to minority cultures thought to be more vibrant and easily objectified than that of the amorphous, invented Han Chinese self. Through the representation of minorities as sensual, liberated, and colorful, Chinese filmmakers and artists found a “metaphorical resource” (James Hevia, personal communication): They were able to introduce taboo and often illegal art into the Chinese cultural mainstream. These artistic motifs then eventually influenced the broader Han majority-accepted cultural repertoire of artistic convention, leading to the establishment of a “national” style and identity.

Defining the Han through “minorities film”

  • 4 It is noteworthy that in the book upon which this film was based, the protagonist is sent to the r (...)

69Through the national medium of officially approved film, Han national identity becomes clearly objectified. In Zhang Nuanxin’s Sacrificed Youth4 there are two scenes where there is an explicit rejection of sensual involvement by the female protagonist, precisely because she is a “Han.” In the first instance, Duoli, the Beijing Han youth sent down to the countryside, is being cajoled while gathering firewood in the forest by her Thai coworkers about a ride in an oxcart she received home from another Beijing male whom she had met in the market place. When she protests that there is nothing between them, her Thai coworkers chide, “Don’t be afraid to tell us!” She replies: “We are Hans, you know, we don’t start love affairs that young” (literal translation: “We are Han people, we don’t talk about love that early”).

70In the second instance, she is sitting alone with the very same Han youth late at night in the dark, romantic forest, listening to the enchanting music of a distant Thai celebration.

Duoli: What are they singing?
Male friend: Can’t you tell? “My lover’s hands are tender and fair.” Duoli: Don’t they find it embarrassing?
M: Why should they? Isn’t it better to speak out one’s feelings? Unlike we Hans, always beating around the bush.
D: Speak out yourself then, no one tries to stop you.
M: But can you?
D: Why not?
M: OK. What’s on your mind now?
D: I ... I find ... it’s getting cold. Let’s go home.
M: Is that all?
D: Yes.
M: [while gazing at her in her sarong]. You are a Han from head to toe. [Literal: No matter what you say, you still are a Han].

71In an interview with Zhang Nuanxin, the female director of Sacrificed Youth, published in Camera Obscura, Zhang states that she made the film in order to encourage the expression of Han female subjectivity and beauty:

After I read the original short story by Zhang Manling, I felt there were many things in it that I’d experienced myself. I’d been down in the countryside, too. I’d felt that the older and less attractive clothes were, (sic) the better. When we were very young, we couldn’t make ourselves attractive, nor could we express love

72(Berry 1988: 21).

Internal orientalism

73Indeed, it is the need for self-discovery, awareness, and expression that Chris Berry (1991: 6) has argued pervades much of “Women’s Cinema” in China. Yet it is only by going to minority areas and contrasting the repressed, bounded Han female self to the constructed minority Other as unrestrained and beautiful that these goals can be explored on the screen. This goes against Julia Kristeva’s utopian construction of the position of women in Confucianized Chinese society, and though it is framed as a Western critique, I agree with Rey Chow that it nevertheless idealizes the position of women in China to an inexcusable degree.

74There are important parallels here to the National Geographic tradition of the sexual portrayal of the Other for a conservative readership which generally regards such portrayals of its “own” as pornographic. (For an excellent deconstruction of the eroticized, exoticized image of the “primitive” in National Geographic, see Lutz and Collins 1993.)

75Clearly, in both cases there is a hierarchy of self: voyeurism of the Other is permissible when they are regarded as less familiar, less civilized, than one’s own. As the Chinese film critic Paul Clark has argued in an East–West Film Journal article, “Ethnic minorities in Chinese Films: Cinema and the Exotic,” film in China from the beginning was regarded as a foreign medium, a venue for viewing the exotic and strange. When China became closed to the outside world after 1949, minorities for the first time took the place of foreigners as subjects of the exotic. As Clark (1987a: 15–16) explains: “Film audiences could travel to ‘foreign’ lands without crossing the nation’s borders.”

76But I would go farther than Clark’s emphasis on fascination with the exotic. In China there is more to it than the typical National Geographic-style romanticization of the primitive, which one might argue is found in almost any society. Here, the state is intimately tied to, in control of, and provides funding for the politicized process of portraying the Other. In Said’s terms (Said 1978), the state has turned its gaze upon the internal other, engaging in a formalized, commodified oriental orientalism that may be focused on the minorities but represents a long tradition of fascination with the outsider in Chinese society. (Louisa Schein 1990, in a provocative analysis, uses the notion of “internal orientalism,” to describe this project. In China this fascination with the exotic has extended not only to the minority nationalities, but to representations of foreigners as well.) The real issue here is why the state should choose to explicitly support such an enterprise. I argue that the politics of this representation of minority Other is both an extension of power-relation practices in the traditional Chinese state, as well as a product of China’s rise as a nation-state.

Contesting and coopting otherness: eroticizing (even) the Muslims

77While minorities appear to have had little choice in the way they have been exoticized in the media, and Han must also conform to their de-exoticized essentialization, there have been several attempts at contesting that restricted space. Not only did the student democracy movement emphasize the sensual, the unique, and the individual, but recent films such as River Elegy (He Shang), Sacrificed Youth, Red Sorghum, and Ju Dou all represent various popular levels of contestation (see Wang 1989: 32). Minorities have also attempted to voice their objections. The covering up of the nude bathing portion of Yuan Yunsheng’s Beijing Capital Airport painting was partly due to complaints from Yunnan minority cadres. (I was recently told that Yuan Yunsheng’s mural was uncovered in 1990, and has now been restored to its original eroticized form. Given the post-1989 political climate in Beijing, this may reflect another attempt to repress difference among the majority by emphasizing the erotic, exotic ways of the minority.)

78In Urumqi, Xinjiang, a large group of Uyghur Muslim artists rallied in protest in 1987 over an exhibition at the Overseas Chinese Hotel of portrayals of Uyghurs and other Central Asians by Han artists that they claimed denigrated them as either too humorous or sensual. Paintings primarily by Han artists portrayed the Uyghurs singing, dancing, riding donkeys, and balancing watermelons on their heads. Worse yet, many paintings portrayed Uyghur women in revealing skirts engaged in erotic dances, such as Ting Shao Kuang’s “Silk Road,” which portrays a bare-breasted minority woman on a background of deserts and camel caravans. For many Uyghur, these representations are particularly offensive, as they regard themselves as conservative Muslims.

79While one might be prepared to allow for the fact that southwestern minorities may have more “open” sexual practices than the Han in China today, they are not the only minorities portrayed as sensual and erotic. While the Thai women did traditionally bathe in the nude (though many may fear to now), and the Mosuo as a matrilineal society may very well have allowed extramarital sexual practice at the matrilocal residence, the Uyghurs and other Muslim peoples can hardly be said to be more publicly erotic or sensual than the Han in their traditional culture (see Gladney 1990b). Uyghur women are widely known throughout China to traditionally cover themselves with purdah-like headscarves and wraps that envelope their entire faces and hair. Unlike the Middle East purdah where eyes and sometimes faces are exposed, Uyghur veils cover the entire face. As Muslims, they are generally much more conservative than Han Chinese in the public sexual sphere. Despite their protestations, these representations continue, underscoring the extraordinary contrast between the Han and minority spectacle in China.

80Like many tourist hotels, the Sheng Tang (“Ascendant Tang”) Hotel in northeast Beijing has a tile mural of a Tang dynasty minority dancer, with accentuated nude breasts, in the center of its main dining hall. On the opposite walls, erotic stylized murals from the Dunhuang Buddhist grottoes grace the dining room. Like in many public places in China, the sensual “Flying Absarases” are an officially sanctioned art subject (Cohen 1987: 17–20). I once asked a group of Han scholars viewing this mural if they thought the dancers were minorities or Han, and they all said minorities, even though the theme is from the Buddhist caves of Dunhuang, supposedly the cradle of Chinese Buddhist religious tradition. While Buddhism became transformed into a “Chinese” religion, its sensual representations in art and absarases have apparently retained the attributes of foreigners and minorities, not Han.

81In the Chinese tourist pictorial, A Picture Album of Turpan Landscape and Custom (1985: 16), a Han artist, Gu Shengyue, portrays the sensual images of the Dunhuang caves, with floating female absarases and their accentuated breasts, hovering above him, almost as if to say: “Though these Uyghur claim to be Muslim, we know what they are really thinking about when they sing and dance.” They have become yet another landscape in the national repertoire of China. In another portrait from the same pictorial, erotic Buddhist figures are portrayed hovering above ecstatic Uyghur dancers (Picture Album 1985: 18). Central Asian dance and artistic display come to represent a metaphor of sensuality and eroticism for Han China, even though Muslims now dominate the region.

82Extremely realistic is the figure painting “Nude with Apples,” by Tang Muli (in Cohen 1987: 101), a Han artist who has traveled widely abroad. With a Central Asian hat, sitting upon a Xinjiang carpet, and eating apples, often produced in China’s dry, cold northwest, the Realist painting of a complete frontal nude is clearly meant to portray a Central Asian minority, though the model may very well be Han. Perhaps Tang Muli knew that a Han woman could never be portrayed so vividly and realistically. Yet, this is despite the fact that Muslims are the most conservative of all peoples in China.

83The last painting of eroticized Muslims I will note is also the most startling: Zhao Yixiong’s 1979 oil, “Awakening of Tarim.” Of this controversial painting, Cohen (1987: 54) writes: “Tarim symbolizes the beginnings of modernization on the edges of the great Takla Makan, China’s most terrible desert. She awakens on a vibrant patchwork of Silk Road images: camels, mosques, oil derricks, Buddhist deities, oases, grapes, gourds, and pomegranates.” While paintings of Uyghur and other Muslims by Han artists such as Huang Zhou have had a long history in China, they were never so eroticized as Zhao Yixiong’s. His painting makes clear the dramatic linkage between nationality, women, and modernity: By depicting his nude Uyghur female subject as “awakening” from the midst of her traditional life to a “modern” world filled with oil rigs, airplanes, and nuclear installations, Zhao Yixiong perhaps suggests that it is only in throwing off the traditional minority culture of Islam, with its covered women, mosques, and caravans, that the Tarim woman and the region can be modernized. With camel caravans and mosque minaret literally emerging from between her thighs, this painting would, of course, be extremely offensive to Uyghurs. Nevertheless, it was commissioned to be painted by Zhao Yixiong, who, as a painter for the Chinese Museum of Chinese History and Revolution, is employed by the state to represent the Other in strikingly similar Orientalist fashion as that of Alloula’s (1986) “Colonial Harem.”

84Cohen informs us that Zhao’s painting was not allowed to be exhibited by the Chinese authorities. One might assume this was due to its explicit, erotic nature. Yet, according to Cohen (1987: 54), “The [Oil Painting Research Association] excluded it because of the green streak on the woman’s buttocks–an Expressionist gesture that was apparently thought to be offensive.” Extraordinarily, expressionistic representation was rejected as proper for minority portraiture, favoring explicit realism. By contrast, realistic representation of the Han female body has been heavily restricted by the Chinese State. Just as the subordination of Chinese women reifies the elevated position of men, so the exoticization of minorities essentializes the imagined identity of the Han and reaffirms Han feelings of superiority. Public, state-sponsored minority representation as both more sensual and more primitive than the Han supports the state’s agenda: With the proper educational and economic progress they will eventually attain the modernity that the Han have attained, and enter into the same civilized restrictions under the authority of the state as vanguard. Symbolic tribute by minorities becomes an important link with China’s past, establishing their own feudal pasts, and a signal of who will lead the future. It also legitimates the state’s authority to enforce homogeneity, morality, and “civility” among the nearly 92 percent Han majority, while difference is “temporarily” tolerated among the “backward” minorities. In a socialist society that claims to be post-Confucian, gender and ethnic hierarchies continue to be articulated in a discourse of morality—the proper ordering of the social universe. It is precisely resistance to that order which makes the film Ju Dou so controversial. But the question becomes, how do certain groups get represented in certain ways, and how do they then begin to conceive of themselves along those stereotypical lines? Three examples of Muslim groups in China and Central Asia will serve to illustrate the role of relational alterity in constructing stereotypical representations that contribute to the imagined and, often, very real identifications recognized by state censuses and nascent nationalist groups.

Fig. 9.3. Zhao Yixiong, Awakening of Tarim, in Cohen, 1987, 54.

The Muslim Chinese: making identity

85Embedded within the ethnoscape of China and Inner Asia, the Muslim Chinese, known as Dungan in Xinjiang and much of Central Asia, and as Hui in China, are distributed widely. According to the official nationality census and literature in China, the Hui people are the second most populous of China’s fifty-five recognized minority nationalities, who altogether comprise almost eight percent of the total population. The Hui are the most widespread minority, inhabiting every region, province, city, and over ninety-seven percent of the nation’s counties. It is noteworthy that while the Hui may represent a small fragment of the population in most areas (with the exception of Ningxia), they often make up the vast majority of the minority population in Han-dominated areas. This is also true for most of China’s cities where the Hui are the main urban ethnic group. It is conventionally thought that China’s Muslim minorities are concentrated in the northwest corner, near Soviet Central Asia. Surprisingly, after Ningxia and Gansu, the third largest population of Hui is found in Henan Province, in central China. Their sixth largest concentration is in Yunnan, and there are over 200,000 of them in Beijing, the nation’s capital.

86There is also extensive economic and occupational diversity found among the Hui, from cadres to clergy, rice farmers to factory workers, schoolteachers to camel drivers, and poets to politicians. In the north, the majority of Hui are wheat and dry rice agriculturists, while in the south, they are primarily engaged in wet-rice cultivation and aquaculture. Since the collectivization campaigns of the 1950s, most Hui were prevented from engaging in the small private businesses that were their traditional specializations. Hui run successful restaurants throughout China, and across its borders, which I have visited in Thailand, Bishkek, Almaty, Istanbul, and even Los Angeles, where there are six.

The Hui: a Han construct?

87The people now known as the Hui from the beginning have been the diaspora, the immigrant in China, often “racialized” as the other. In China, “Race . would create nationhood,” according to Dokötter’s (1992: 71) cogently argued thesis, and it had much to do with Han Chinese representations of Hui otherness. Even their name, “Hui” in Chinese can mean “to return,” as if they were never at home in China and destined to leave.

88Descended from Persian, Arab, Mongolian, and Turkish Muslim merchants, soldiers and officials who settled in China from the 7th to 14th centuries and intermarried with Han women, largely living in isolated communities, the only thing that some but not all had in common was a belief in Islam. Until the 1950s in China, Islam was simply known as the “Hui religion” (Hui jiao)—believers in Islam were Huijiao believers. Until then, any person who was a believer in Islam was a “Hui religion disciple” (Huijiao tu).

89Nevertheless, they are recognized by the state as one nationality, the Hui, and they themselves now use that self-designation in conversations with other Hui and non-Hui. Like their unique Islamic architecture and art, Hui combine often, as they say, “Chinese characteristics on the outside, and Islamic ones on the inside,” with mosques appearing like Buddhist temples on the outside yet embellished internally with Quranic passages. In a painting of the Chinese term for “longevity” (shou) popular with many Hui and mass-produced by the China Islamic Society for public profit, Quranic suras are written so as to form the very Chinese ideograph for “longevity” itself, beautifully illustrating the dual nature of the Muslim Chinese. This ambiguity, both Chinese and Muslim, resident stranger, is critical to their self- and other-representation.

Map 9.2. Distribution of the Hui in China

Map 9.2. Distribution of the Hui in China

Each dot represents 3,000 Hui Muslims
Outlined area at center represents the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region
Source: Glagney, Muslim Chinese, 1991, ii.

90As Hobsbawm (1990: 70–71) surprisingly predicted: “No doubt Bosnian and Chinese Muslims will eventually consider themselves a nationality, since their governments treat them as one.”

Relational alterity and oppositional identities: the Hui

91One way of conceptualizing contemporary Hui Muslim discourses of identity in China, Central Asia, and even Turkey, is to envision an identity that is both relational, relative, and grounded in a historical representation in which the people who have come to be known as the Hui situate themselves. I propose that it might be best understood through the notion of relational alterity, loosely abstracted from anthropological descent theory. Though in an entirely different territorial and economic context, Evans-Pritchard’s (1940) classic study of the Nuer first suggested the expansive-contractive character of hierarchical segmentary lineage style among acephalous nomadic societies. When the Nuer (or Dinka) were confronted with an outside power, they unified and organized to a higher degree of political complexity in order to respond to the perceived challenge. When the threat subsided, they diversified and atomized, in an articulated pattern of what Gregory Bateson (1972: 96) once described as nested hierarchy. For as Bateson (1972: 78) argued, it takes two somethings to make a difference; without an other, you only have “the sound of one hand clapping.” While Evans-Pritchard’s study was mired in the nineteenth-century colonialist structuralisms that portrayed “tribal” pastoralists as premodern and overdetermined by tradition, his model of alterity is surprisingly relevant to the postmodern, post-Cold War period, where it could be argued that the world is becoming increasing acephalous and breaking down into smaller and smaller relational units. These relations, like Evans-Prichard’s Nuer, are segmentary in principle, taking as their basic components not the face-to-face herding units, but the imagined community of the nation, and its constituent parts.

Fig. 9.4. Oxen Street Mosque, Beijing

92This approach can be roughly diagrammed for heuristic purposes as an articulating hierarchy of relational alterities, a schematic that segmental kinship theorists have been playing with for some time. For example, when “A” and “B” encounter a higher level of opposition “D,” they form “C,” moving a node up the scale to form higher-level relations, or conversely, down the scale when the higher-level threat subsides. While this scheme is binary, it is always constructed in a field of social relations, and is inherently ternary in that A and B are always in union or opposition depending on their interaction with D. As David Maybury-Lewis and Uri Almagor once argued, it is the attraction (or repulsion) of “perceived” opposites that is key, there is nothing critical to binariness beyond that perceptual act (Maybury-Lewis and Almagor 1989). Indeed, there is nothing that prevents three groups from becoming a fourth in actual social relations, though it is difficult to portray in two-dimensional diagrams. Also, it is important that these alliances, relations, and oppositions are based on my own observations and reading of social histories; it is not a cognitive map, and the only constraints are those imposed by the specific contexts of alterity.





93As I have argued elsewhere, these alterior relations are best perceived as “dialogical” rather than “dialectical” (Gladney 1991: 76–78), insofar as strict dialectics (Hegelian vs. Maoist) are generally thought to move in a certain direction, always negating a past relation, rather than dialogic interaction that can move back and forth, up and down, depending on the nature of the interaction.

Taussig on mimesis
As Taussig notes, identity is constantly constructed in imitation of and resistance to an often imagined ”other,” creating samenesses and differences in mimeotic interaction: ”... mimesis registers both sameness and difference, of being like, and of being Other. Creating stability from this instability is no small task, yet all identity formation is engaged in this habitually bracing activity in which the issue is not so much staying the same, but maintaining sameness through alterity” (Taussig 1993: 27).

94Here we are merely tracing a “chain of stereotypical representation” (Bhabha 1994: 251), and seeking to outline in rather static terms constantly shifting relations and multiplicities of perceived identities that mask many levels of social simultaneity.

Gladney on relationality and relativity
Eriksen (1993) is correct to stress relationality and relativity in ethnic identification. The problem is that he neglects to place stress upon the context of the perception of difference, assuming it almost always to pertain. For Eriksen, everyone is ethnic, whether they like it or not. ”Virtually every human being belongs to an ethnic group,” Eriksen (1993: 11) decides for us, ”whether he or she lives in Europe, Melanesia, or Central America.” This ignores the relevance and irrelevance of ethnicity, its historicity, and why, say, majorities (such as the ”whites” in my Introductory Anthropology class, or the ”majority” Han in China, or dominant Turks in Turkey) have a hard time thinking of themselves as ”ethnic.”

95As Rachel Moore observes, these fluctuating alterities can become so stereotypically fixed and represented that essentializing regimes, elites, and anthropologists often engage in “marketing alterities” for remarkably different purposes (Moore 1994: 127). The hierarchy of alterior opposition emerges within the context of social relations. As Thomas has argued, these are often “strategic reformulations” and do not represent “eternal properties of self–other relations” divorced from particular socio-historical moments (Thomas 1992: 171). (The strategic nature of this scheme is revealed in the rather apt Bedouin proverb: “I against my brother, my brother and I against our cousin, our cousins and us against the outsider.”) Nor does this assume a cognitive map, or that there are no other options available depending on shifting social relations.

Mapping Hui identifications

96“This interstitial passage between fixed identifications opens up the possibility of a cultural hybridity,” Bhabha (1994: 4) has suggested, “that entertains without an assumed or imposed hierarchy.” Essentialized identifications make the construction of Hui Muslims as ambiguous possible, and at the same time, threatening to purifying projects. If we examine the case of the Hui described above, it becomes clear that Hui represent themselves as such depending on the nature of their interaction with others. Thus, Beijing and Shanghai Hui differ in language, custom, and locality, often leading to disruptive and nonhierarchical competitive business relations, often only until a non-Hui enters the scene. At this moment, the Beijing and Shanghai Hui may unite as “Hui,” and so on up the scale of interactions. When Hui or Dungan move outside of China, their “Chineseness” may become enhanced in interactions with non-Chinese, or “Muslimness” in interactions with non-Muslims. Indeed, the very nature of the Hui as a “nationality” is based on Chinese nationality policies that recognized them as an official minzu, giving them legal status. This initiated a process that I have described elsewhere in which a Muslim people became transformed into a minority nationality (Gladney 1991).



Dokötter on minzu see p. 113

97Outside the confines of the Chinese nation-state, it should come as no surprise that the Hui will begin to regard themselves less as a nationality and emphasize other aspects of their identity, such as Islam or their Chinese language. This helps to understand how the Hui outside of China, from Malaysia to Istanbul, often relate to others simply as Muslims, hoping to override differences between “outsider” and “Chinese.” Here, I should note, there is nothing determinative in these relations. They are merely reflections of what I have observed in the field. The hierarchy of segmentation is not fixed; it is determined by the local context of difference, as defined by specific constellation of stereotypical relations, of hierarchy, power, class, and opposition that are often shifting and multifaceted, but never arbitrary. Thus, even in China, there have been times where Hui have united with Han Chinese against other Hui, when it was in their interest to do so, often downplaying their Muslim identity, in favor of cultural, ethnic, or linguistic similarities to the Han Chinese with whom they sought to share practical interests. The history of Gansu and Xinjiang is filled with these shifting power-alliances (see Forbes 1986), where brother united with brother, and sometimes with the Chinese, against a cousin who was often a rival Hui warlord (Lipman 1984). The relational alterity approach seeks to map out the significant fault lines of relation, opposition, and nodes of hierarchy—a heuristic way of depicting this phenomenon. It does not, of course, pretend to have predictive or universal, dehistoricized explanatory value.

98The Hui as a group that describe their identity as in-between, or to follow Lila Abu-Lughod (1991) as “halfies,” transgress the nation-state insofar as it founds itself upon the notion of a unique sovereign group, one nation-one state, despite many examples to the contrary.

The Uyghur: indigeneities of place, space, and state recognition

99A Uyghur CITS tour guide at the ancient Astana underground tombs outside of Tur-pan related the following statement to me:

The Uyghur people are the descendants of a high civilization of Central Asian nomadic people who had a kingdom based here in Turfan. The elegant paintings and wrapping in this tomb date to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and are comparable in beauty and sophistication. A mummy in the Xinjiang Provincial Tombs also found in this area dates over 6000 years old and proves the Uyghur people are even older than the Han Chinese [personal interview, March 1985].

100Chinese histories notwithstanding, every Uyghur firmly believes that his ancestors were the indigenous people of the Tarim basin, now known as Xinjiang. This land was “their” land. Nevertheless, I have argued elsewhere the constructed “ethnogenesis” of the Uyghur (Gladney 1990b). In his popular history of Xinjiang, Jack Chen noted the reintroduction of the term Uyghur to describe the Turkic inhabitants of Chinese Turkestan (Chen 1977: 100). While a collection of nomadic steppe peoples known as the “Uyghur” have existed since before the 8th century, this identity was lost from the 15th to 20th centuries. It is not until the fall of the Turkish Khanate (552–744 AD) to a people reported by the Chinese historians as Hui-he or Hui-hu that we find the beginnings of the Uyghur Empire described by Mackerras (1972). At this time, the Uyghur were but one collection of nine nomadic tribes, who initially in confederation with other Basmil and Karlukh nomads, defeated the Second Turkish Khanate and then dominated the federation under the leadership of Koli Beile in 742 (Sinor 1969: 113).

The historical Uyghur

101Gradual sedentation of the Uyghur, and their defeat of the Turkish Khanate, occurred precisely as trade with the unified Tang state became especially lucrative. Samolin argues that the stability of rule, trade with the Tang and ties to the imperial court, as well as the growing importance of establishing fixed Manichaean ritual centers, contributed to a settled way of life for the Uyghur tribes (Samolin 1964: 74–5). Sedentation and interaction with the Chinese state was accompanied by socioreligious change: the traditional shamanistic Turkic-speaking Uyghur came increasingly under the influence of Persian Manichaeanism, Buddhism, and eventually, Nestorian Christianity (Sinor 1969: 114–15). Extensive trade and military alliances along the old Silk Road with the Chinese state developed to the extent that the Uyghur gradually adopted cultural, dress, and even agricultural practices of the Chinese (Mackerras 1972: 37). Conquest of the Uyghur capital of Karabalghasun in Mongolia by the nomadic Kyr-gyz in 840, without rescue from the Tang who may have become by then intimidated by the wealthy Uyghur empire, led to further sedentarization and crystallization of Uyghur identity.

102Indeed, it is the Yugur nationality of Gansu today, not the Uyghur, who fled the Kyrgyz to Central China, who are thought to preserve much of the original Karako-rum Uyghur history in their contemporary religious, linguistic, and cultural expression.

Ståhlberg on the Yugur
Sabira Stahlberg (1995), who completed extensive fieldwork among the Yugur in Gansu, recently argued that they in fact are not directly descended from the 9th-century Karako-rum Uyghur kingdom, but represent a hybrid group formed after the fall of Western Xia (12th century) combining Tibetan, Mongolian, Turkic, and Chinese influences in the ”ethnic melting pot” of the Gansu corridor.

103One branch that ended up in what is now Turpan, took advantage of the unique socioecology of the glacier-fed oases surrounding the Taklamakan and were able to preserve their merchant and limited agrarian practices, gradually establishing Khocho or Gaochang, the great Uyghur city-state based in Turfan for four centuries (850–1250).

104The gradual Islamicization of the Uyghur from the 10th to as late as the 17th centuries (Barat, personal communication), while displacing their Buddhist religion, did little to bridge these oases-based loyalties. From that time on, the people of Uyghuris-tan centered in the Turfan depression who resisted Islamic conversion until the 17th century were the last to be known as Uyghur. The others were known only by their oasis or by the generic term of Muslims (Haneda 1978: 7). With the arrival of Islam, the ethnonym “Uyghur” fades from the historical record. Instead, we find the proliferation of such localisms as “yerlik” (persons of the land), “sart” (caravaneer), “taranchi” (agriculturalists from the Tarim basin transplanted to Yili under the Qianlong Emperor), and other oasis-based localisms. Justin Rudelson has convincingly argued that the “oasis identities” among the contemporary Uyghur often prevail over religious or national identity, dividing them along local and linguistic lines (Rudelson 1997).

Reconstituting the Uyghur

105During the Republican period, Uyghur identity was again marked by factionalism along locality, religious and political lines. Forbes, in his detailed analysis of the complex warlord politics of Republican Xinjiang, finds important continuing distinctions between the three macroregions of Xinjiang: the northwestern Zungaria, southern Tarim basin, and eastern Kumul-Turfan (“Uyghuristan”) areas (Forbes 1986). Rudel-son’s dissertation confirms this persistent regional diversity along three, and he insightfully proposes that there are four macroregions, dividing the southern Tarim into two distinct socioecological regions (Rudelson 1992). The Uyghur were recognized as a nationality in the 1930s in Xinjiang under a Soviet-influenced policy of nationality recognition that contributed to a widespread acceptance today of continuity with the ancient Uyghur kingdom and their eventual “ethnogenesis” as a bona fide nationality (see Chen 1977, Gladney 1990b, Rudelson 1988).



106This nationality designation not only masks tremendous regional and linguistic diversity, it also includes groups such as the Loplyk and Dolans that had very little to do with the oasis-based Turkic Muslims that became known as the Uyghur (see Svan-berg 1989b, Hoppe 1995). Han migration to the region has meant that Uyghur population has shrunk from approximately 80 percent in the 1940s to less than 42 percent in the year 2000.

107It is the argument of this chapter that diversity and factionalism within the Uyghur reflects a segmentary hierarchy of relationality common among all social groupings. Uyghur are divided from within by religious conflicts, in this case competing Sufi and non-Sufi factions, territorial loyalties (whether they be oases or places of origin), linguistic discrepancies, commoner–elite alienation, and competing political loyalties. It is also important to note that Islam was only one of several unifying markers for Uyghur identity, depending on those with whom they were in significant opposition at the time. For example, to the Dungan (Hui), the Uyghur distinguish themselves as the legitimate autochthonous minority, since both share a belief in Sunni Islam. In contrast to the nomadic Muslim peoples (Kazak or Kyrgyz), Uyghur might stress their attachment to the land and oasis of origin. In opposition to the Han Chinese, the Uyghur will generally emphasize their long history in the region.





Fig. 9.10. Kashgar International Trade Market (Photo: Jorg Schmiedmayer)

The Kazak: nomadic nostalgia and the power of genealogy

108When two Kazaks who do not know each other meet, they make their acquaintance by giving the lineage to which they belong and their closest patrilineal relatives. In East Berlin, Kazaks from Turkey established contact with Kazak guest students from the Mongolian People’s Republic studying in the German Democratic Republic. As the Xinjiang Kazaks, the Kazaks from Mongolia belonged to the Orta Juz group and generally also to the same lineages that are found in Turkey. In some cases they have found common kinship relations, which even led to organized meetings in East Berlin between relatives coming from Turkey and visitors from Mongolia (Svanberg 1989a: 116). Ramazan Kubilay of Zeytinburnu, Istanbul, once declared to me (Gladney 1996) that he was a direct descendant of Genghis Khan, who he strongly believed was a Kazak nomad. Indeed, for most Kazaks, nomadism is only a distant memory to which they look in ethnic nostalgia. Robert B. Ekvall concluded his classic ethnography of Tibetan nomadic pastoralism, Fields on the Hoof, with the following dire prediction: “In the framework of communist doctrine and experience ... there is no logical and acceptable place for the nomad” (Ekvall 1968: 94). He was completely accurate with regard to the former Soviet Union, where among the entire population of over 7 million Kazaks there are now only a few seminomadic pastoralists remaining in the most remote desert regions.

109His predictions for China, though not unreasonable at the time, were proven false. Indeed, the last few years have witnessed a resurgence of nomadic pastoralism in some grassland areas to the extent that the ecological balance of these zones has become threatened through overgrazing. Yang Li and Hsin-i Wu of the Gansu Grassland Ecological Research Institute recently reported that the privatization of land-use and herd stocks in China came at the same time that the “free-market system was instituted in China and the government decreased the price control measures. Since then, the cost of animal products has soared; this has resulted in the overgrazing of China’s grasslands far beyond carrying-capacity” (Li and Wu 1990: 1).

Nomadic nostalgia, cross-border ties and identity debates

110While it has yet to be demonstrated that Kazak pastoralists in the Altai Mountains have posed any threat to the grasslands of the alpine meadows or valley floors, Svan-berg and Benson (1988: 200–205) and Humphrey and Sneath (1999: 176 ff) have documented a resurgence of traditional nomadic pastoralism with the free-market reforms. As descendants of the Turkish Khanate that dominated the Mongolian steppe in the 6th century AD, the Kazaks are pursuing a style of nomadic pastoralism that is derived from these Turkish ancestors, who, according to Joseph Fletcher (1979: 24), “developed steppe nomadism in its final form, the form in which the Mongols later adopted it.” Even as Kazak nomadism disappears from the Central Asian steppe, debate has raged in the former Soviet Union over the role of religion and Turkism in defining Kazak national identity. While some intellectuals argue for the role of Islam in defining Kazak identity, others maintain that it is only pan-Turkism that can unite the peoples of the steppe (see Saray 1993: 16–17). These endless debates have marred the important role of nomadism for Kazak national identity, the idea of a nomadic past that unites Kazaks transnationally from China to Central Asia to Turkey, among a people for whom, according to Martha Olcott’s study, “traditional Kazak culture defined a man through the animals he owned, making private ownership of livestock almost the definition of what it was to be Kazak” (Olcott 1987: 248). While Russian-speaking urban Kazaks in modern Almaty certainly do not wish to become nomads, I argue that a kind of “nomadic nostalgia” nevertheless characterizes much current discourse regarding the rediscovery of their pastoralist past, a resumed interest in pre-Islamic Kazak belief systems, an urge to preserve and discover “pure” Kazak nomadic traditions in the Altai Mountains of China, a continued lament over the tragedy of Stalinist seden-tarization, and this discourse impedes to some extent the construction of a contemporary “Kazakstani” identity that includes non-Kazaks.

111In the Altai Mountains of China, with the pervasiveness of market economies in China and the former Soviet Union, and the increasing contacts of these Kazaks with the large immigrant community in Turkey, the role of animal husbandry and Kazak identity is resurfacing as an important factor in changes in their socioecological nexus (Kazakh 1987). During interviews with Kazak immigrants in the Zeytinburnu district of Istanbul (see Gladney 1996, Svanberg 1989a), I found a population that largely defined itself in terms of its burgeoning leather and tanning industry, with leather fashion boutiques run by extended Kazak networks in Istanbul, Paris, London, Berlin, Stockholm, and New York. Now that more unrestricted travel has been taking place between Turkey, Kazakstan, and China (there are direct flights from Istanbul to Uriimqi, Istanbul to Almaty, and Almaty to Üriimqi, which I flew in May and June 1993, as well as the Eurasian rail connection between Üriimqi and Almaty which I traveled in October 1995), Kazaks once separated by artificial political boundaries are beginning to trade and exchange ideas and products to an unprecedented extent.

112When I have asked Kazaks in Istanbul and in Germany why they attempted so hard to preserve what they thought to be a “traditional” Kazak identity, they often have told me, “We are descended from the great Kazak nomad leader Genghis Khan (he was Kazak you know, not Mongol), we know our entire genealogy, and it is the first thing every Kazak remembers about themselves, besides being Muslim. Whenever we meet another person who looks Kazak on the street, we don’t ask them if they are Kazak, but what Kazak lineage, which Jiz they are from. Then we can see just how closely we are related.”

Facing yet another nation-state: the Turkish construction of “Turkness”

113Since the dissolution of the former Soviet Union in 1991, they have had many more opportunities to do so. The Turkish government gave 10,000 scholarships to invite Central Asians to study in Turkey while I was there in 1992–93, and 10,000 more in successive years. Many were not prepared for the difficult adjustment that they would have living in Turkey. Not only did they complain about the cramped dorms and less money than they were expected to receive, but also how difficult Turkish was to learn, how horrible the food was (no rice pilaf), and how different the culture was from home. They did not take to Turkish society as quickly as the politicians in Ankara expected. And many Central Asians eventually returned from Turkey disappointed by what they found there, complaining of its secularism, hedonism, and inferior education, which many of them found far beneath their Russian training. At the same time, Turks in Turkey discovered how different they were from their “ancestors” and “distant cousins,” leading to increasingly public doubts about Ataturk’s dogma regarding the Central Asian origins of the Turks.

114The problem is we do not know much about these “sub-Turkic” peoples, since they are regarded by the Turkish state as just “Turks” and not counted as minorities. Though there have been many studies on the official minorities in Turkey, the Armenians, Greeks, Jews, and even the Kurds, there has been almost nothing done on the sub-Turkic identities, since most assumed that once these people came to Turkey, they just blended in, becoming Turk, or what is culturally and politically defined as “White” in the U.S. (see Frankenberg 1993), just as in China, Cantonese, Shanghainese, and Hakka are defined as “Han.”

  • 5 The half milliyet (“religious,” “national” or “ethnoreligious group”) in Turkey refers, of course, (...)

115One Swedish scholar, Ingvar Svanberg, noticed the profoundly different acculturation patterns of Uyghurs and Kazaks in Turkey (Svanberg 1989a). Svanberg estimated that there are 60–100,000 of these Inner Asian emigres, but we really do not know, because they are not counted by a state interested in defining a majority, through quantifying only certain minorities. Despite the popular Turkish proverb: “Turkiyede yet-misbir bucuk milliyet var” (“There are 71 and a half5 nations/ethnoreligious groups in Turkey”).

116Atatürk’s policy was to stress Central Asian Turkish origins, and then limit interaction with Central Asia to keep the Russians from getting nervous about pan-Turkism. Once the borders opened, Turks traveling to “Turkestan” were surprised to find Kazaks, Uzbeks, and Kyrgyz whom they could hardly understand, and who were not interested in acquiring yet another “elder brother” (aga bey) after losing the Soviets.

117My study in Turkey was designed to try to understand the construction of this “whiteness” by looking at sub-Turkic ethnicity, just as I questioned the construction of “Hanness” in China through looking at the construction of minority identity among the Hui and other minorities (see Gladney 1994a, Gladney 1996). This calls into question the nature of majority representation as “homogeneous” in these regions, and “heterogeneous” in Europe, as Hobsbawm seems to suggest: “ ... China, Korea, and Japan, which are indeed among the extremely rare examples of historic states composed of a population that is ethnically almost or entirely homogeneous . Thus of the (non-Arab) Asian states today, Japan and the two Koreas are 99% homogeneous, and 94% of the People’s Republic of China are Han” (Hobsbawm 1991: 66, and nt. 7). For Hobsbawm and other Eurocentric nationality theorists (and here I include Greenfeld 1992 and Samuel Huntington, e.g., his “West versus the rest” Huntington 1993: 4), Europe and the West are troped as heterogeneous and diverse, while the “Orient” is broken up into more or less homogeneous national chunks.

Chinese Kazaks as objects of a cross-border nomadic nostalgia

118The continued salience of “nomadic nostalgia” to contemporary Kazak identity in Kazakstan is clearly demonstrated by their recently selected national symbol: the flag cout of arms of Kazakstan, which has the famous flying horses beneath the interior dome of the yurt on a field of blue sky.

119In my interviews with Kazak pastoralists in the Southern Pastures of the Tianshan in 1987, 1992, 1995 and in the Zhaosu Tianshan region in 2001, and in the Altai mountain regions in 2001–2, I often found that whereas a traditional Kazak auyl had the mutual participation of all members in a wide-range of tasks, each household of the clan in the postcollectivist period divided up the various tasks of nomadic pastoralism: herding, marketing, leather processing, and rug-making. This was almost completely abolished during the Chinese collectivization campaigns of the 1960s and 1970s and the deprivatization of the herds, just as under Stalin in the 1920s and 1930s. There was no inherent incentive to care for the animals when the state controlled the profits, and traditional shared work roles were reassigned to specific collective enterprise tasks. The traditional household and auyl economies were dismantled. Now that there has been a return to traditional nomadic pastoralism in China and the private ownership of animals, one would expect a resurgence of traditional household and auyl economic organization. However, unlike the traditional Kazak social structure as outlined by Alfred Hudson (1938) and Lawrence Krader (1963), one now finds that often each yurt will perform specialized tasks for the entire clan or auyl: one household will be responsible for herding, another for marketing, and another for production of certain leather goods, crafts, or rugs. While this may not be the rule for all Kazak auyls of the Altai, it represents a new form of household economy and social organization that is perhaps due to the collectivized experience of the 1960s and 1970s. These households are also becoming tied into the local and transnational economies through the marketing of their products. This reorganization of traditional household economies may be one factor in the increased herd sizes reported in the Altai and will be an important aspect in the changing socioecology of the region.

120The Kazaks of Kazakstan and Turkey look to the nomads of the Altai as their living cultural ancestors. Understanding of this nomadic way of life will assist in determining the evolving nature of Kazak national identity. It is a way of life that is resurgent, albeit in a somewhat altered form, in China, while passing away elsewhere. It is clear that in reciting the oft-memorized genealogies among the Kazaks, nomadism and its cultural by-products loom large as an important factor in their representation of Kazak identity. For the Kazaks, the tracing of genealogy is a much more powerful force in their identity construction than we have found for either Hui or Uyghur. For Kazaks, their identity is represented as segmentary in principle. For the Hui, a generalized notion of descent from foreign Muslim ancestors is important for contemporary identity. It does not really matter to modern Hui if these ancestors may have been Arab, Persian, or Turk, only that they were Muslim, migrated to China, and maintained their distinctive identities. For the Uyghur, knowledge of genealogy seems to be important only as it relates to the land, as proof of early Uyghur settlement in the Tarim oases, prior to the Chinese or other nomadic Turks. The keeping of detailed genealogies, according to my Uyghur informants in Xinjiang and Turkey, is something the Chinese like to do, not them. Indeed, it is Kazak preoccupation with genealogical minutiae that not only influences mate-selection and nomadic nostalgia, but may also contribute to an increased awareness of identity.

A Kazak genealogy

121A typical Kazak genealogy among members of the Saqabay sublineage with whom I interacted in Istanbul is several levels deep.

122At the highest level, most Kazaks among the Saqabay knew they were descendants of the Orta Jüz (mistranslated “Middle Horde” or in Turkish, “orda,” which refers to the original tribal military formations). At the level Kazaks refer to as “tayipa” (from the Arabic, tayifa), which Svanberg (1989a:115) translates as “tribe” and Hudson (1938: 19) as “uru” (Krader 1963 as “ru”) they identified with the Kerey. At the next level of ru, or “lineage” (Svanberg 1989a: 115), they traced their lineage to the Zan-tekey. Yet many Kazaks call all of these levels juz or ru, and there is no real consistency. At the base is the emphasis upon migration groups known as “auyl” (or “awl” Hudson 1938: 19), which would have been comprised of different households, related by these complicated descent lines. It was clear, however, that a Saqabay would rarely marry a Bazarkul or Tasbike, and only with great reluctance marry outside of the Zan-tekey line. As Svanberg notes, beyond the Kerey, there was not much knowledge of specific connections to other Orta lineages. This knowledge is increasing, however, with frequent travel to Central Asia, where Kazak members of the Ulu (or “Great”) Orda are primarily concentrated. Interactions traditionally would move up the scale from household to auyl to lineage.

123Now, there is specific interest only at the lineage and above level, since migration groups have changed dramatically as noted above. It is noteworthy that distinction from Uyghur and Hui only takes place at the sixth and seventh levels of interaction, revealing a much higher range of relations than has been described for Uyghur or Hui. Kazak preoccupation with genealogy is reflected in their more detailed scale of relational alterity.



Gladney on lineage revival
In an interesting recent paper on ”Ethnic Composition in Xinjiang,” Thomas Hoppe (1995) has presented a strikingly similar hierarchy of opposition among the Kyrgyz pastoralists of southwestern Xinjiang. It is interesting that while Kyrgyz and Kazak preserve a fascination for lineage and genealogy as former nomadic pastoralists, this is not the case for the Uyghur and Hui groupings discussed in this paper.
In a fascinating parallel, Uradyn Erden Bulag (1998: 47) demonstrates in his groundbreaking thesis that contemporary Mongols in Mongolia are reviving their genealogy and clan names (obog), which had been lost under Soviet influence.



Nomadic nostalgia as nation-building instrument

124Genealogies travel well. Kazak notions of transhumance based on the auyl that trace to the roots of nomadic descent lines also extend far beyond any contemporary configurations of the nation-state. It allows Kazak networks that extend throughout Central Asia, China, Turkey, and Europe. For Kazaks who have in the past been socially restricted from marrying any relative within five generations, the oral genealogical tradition becomes a critically important cognitive map of relational alterity—defining potential spouses, allies, and trading partners. Despite the disappearance of complete nomadic pastoralism in the former Soviet Central Asia, where we rarely find herders traveling as families, nomadic nostalgia can be seen in public monumentalism, museum displays, the revival of “nomadic” popular culture in song and poetry and it even finds its representation on the Kazak and Kyrgyz State seals and flags.

125On a field of blue, the Kazakstan flag shows the symbol of an eagle soaring past a golden sun, reminiscent of the days when Kazak pastoralists hunted with eagles. Remarkably absent are any references to Soviet or even Islamic influences. Even more reminiscent of a nomadic past, the State Seal of Kazakstan is bordered by the famous winged horses of Ferghana, with the framework of the yurt (Kazak: kyrgyzyu; Mongolian: ger) in the background. Perhaps indicative of socialist heritage, a star rises at the top of the seal. At the very center of the seal and, indeed, at the heart of Kazak nomadic genealogical symbolism, is the “shanyrak” or center of the yurt. It is the only part of the tent that does not collapse, and is handed down father-to-son, generation-to-generation, according to the genealogical rules outlined above.

Fig. 9.14. Kyrgyzstan’s flag

126Indeed, on the Kyrgyzstan flag, the shanyrak becomes the very center of the flag and the focus of the nation. Nomadic nostalgia for a segmentary tradition continues to be important for vernacular and official identifications.

127As Charles Scott has argued, “Genealogies are ways of allowing differences, discontinuities, and the priority of exteriority and spatial imagery while one comes to know various ordered regions of human life” (Scott 1990: 57).

Relational alterities and the Han

128This approach has attempted to describe the context of “both/and” identities: how it is that, say, a person who calls himself a “Turkestani” can be both Kashgari and Uyghur, Muslim and Turk, Chinese and Central Asian. In China, all of these groups are Chinese citizens, and travel on a Chinese passport, whether they like it or not. The project then becomes not any essentialized attempt at a final definition of the meanings of these representations (i.e., what is a Uyghur), but an examination of the conditions of relationality (i.e., when is a Uyghur). As this chapter has argued, being Uyghur is not as meaningful for younger emigres in Istanbul, nor was it between the 15th and early 20th centuries, but it certainly has become relevant for the 8–9 million oasis-dwelling Turkic people who have been labeled “Uyghur” since 1934 as a result of nation-state incorporation, Great Game rivalries, and Sino-Soviet nationality policies.

129These identities are particularly called into question once people move across national borders and become members of the transnational diaspora. The project then becomes not any essentialized attempt at a final definition of the meanings of these representations, but an examination of when they come to the fore, and with whom they are asserted. As Bhabha has noted:

It is in the emergence of the interstices—the overlap and displacement of domains of difference—that the intersubjective and collective experiences of nationness, community interest, or cultural value are negotiated. How are subjects formed “in-between,” or in excess of, the sum of the “parts” of difference (usually intoned as race/class/gender, etc.)?... Increasingly, “national” cultures are being produced from the perspective of disenfranchised minorities (Bhabha 1994: 2–6).

130The post-Cold War period has led to a downward movement of opposition: it is no longer a U.S.–Soviet–Chinese trilateral configuration, but a much more particularized, multipolar, and multivalent world, where shifting identities may move quickly up and down or even between scales of relation depending on specific circumstances. Without the Russian and U.S. threat to China’s sovereignty, lower-level identities may increasingly come into play, evidenced by increasing “southern nationalisms” among the Cantonese, Fujianese, Hakka, and others empowered by new-found economic wealth.

Majority identities are not immune to change

131This project also calls into question the nature of majority national identities in Turkey, the former Soviet Union, and China. Recent studies of the Marxist influence on national identity construction in these regions have often ignored the process by which majority groups get constructed: the Turk, the Russian, and the Han Chinese. The “Turk” in Ottoman history, was the tent-dwelling nomad, and not held up as the admirable essence of Turkish nationhood until the rush from empire to nation associated with Atatürk. A similar transition from empire to nation led the early Chinese nationalists to appropriate a Japanese-derived term for nation (minzoku) and label initially 5 under the nationalists and later 56 groups under the Communists as “nations” (minzu). The notion of the Han as a minzu (nationality) is a quite recent phenomenon, popularized by Sun Yat-sen in relational opposition to Tibetans, Mongols, Manchu, and Hui, in his 5 peoples policy, and more importantly, to the foreign imperialists, all of whom were perceived as “nations” (Gladney 1994a). The category of “Han” as a people was actually left to China by the Mongols, who included all northern peoples as Han (including the Koreans), as distinguished from southerners (nan ren), Central Asians (semu ren), and the Mongols. Now that higher-level post-imperial, and then Cold War, oppositions have subsided, China may find itself moving down the scale into serious sub-Han ethnic and national alterities, particularly with the economic rise of southern nationalisms, historically and linguistically less identified with the Han ethnonym.

132It is clear that we must attend to the nature of shifting national identities in these regions, and the impact of changing international geopolitics. But geopolitics is not enough, as these processes of identity formation and re-formation cannot be understood without attention to historiography and cultural studies. It is even more apparent that relations between Turkey, Russia, and China will hinge on the shifting identities of the mainly Turkic, mainly Muslim peoples in the region. Identities, as this chapter has sought to show, are not easily united across pan-Turkic or pan-Islamic lines. The styles of national identity among these groups pose fundamental challenges, or transgressions, to the nation-states they find themselves in: Uyghur indigenity rejects Chinese claims to “their” land; Kazak idealization of nomadic transhumance suggests that no nation-state should be allowed to contain them; and Hui hybridity argues against the very notion of the “nation,” that the diasporic condition is part of every one’s modern and postmodern predicament, and that there is no pure nation, ethnicity, or race that can claim state power on that alone. Perhaps this belief in hybridity has generally kept the Hui from voicing separatist tendencies.

Map. 9.4. The “Han” as minzu, majority nationality

Map. 9.4. The “Han” as minzu, majority nationality

133In China, recognition of official national identities has empowered these groups in their claims against the nation, particularly for the Hui and Uyghur, to a crystallization and ethnogenesis of identities—identities that have now moved above and beyond the bounds of the Chinese nation-state, encouraging other unrecognized groups to push for recognition and political power. And lest one think that these so-called “marginal” unrecognized peoples are irrelevant to Chinese history and society, we must remember that the Taipings had their origins in the southwestern corner of the country, in Guangxi among the Hakka and Yao, splitting and nearly toppling the Qing Empire. The person who helped bring the Qing finally to an end was Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a true member of the modern transnational diaspora, a Cantonese, born and raised in Hawaii, educated in Japan. Nevertheless, Dr. Sun was effective in mobilizing China’s internal others against the foreign others, Manchu and Western imperialists, creating a new Chinese national identity that may be just as fragile as the old. Identities shift as individuals move across these many borders, and as Zhuangzi reminds us, these identities are formed in relation to others across the field of social and political interactions: “If there is no ‘other’ then we do not have a ‘self,’ if there is no ‘self,’ then we do not have anything to grasp.”

Conclusion: minority as commodity and feminized other in China

134The furor over the nominating of the film Ju Dou for an Academy Award was primarily due to its offensiveness to Chinese moral and hierarchical sensibilities, according to the press (WuDunn 1991: B1). Not surprisingly, Ju Dou was made by a product of the Xi’an film studio, director Zhang Yimou, who starred in Wu Tianming’s iconoclastic film, Old Well. Her elderly, probably impotent, husband physically abuses Ju Dou, a young bride, for not being able to become pregnant. She is beaten repeatedly, tied, and even pinned down by a horse-saddle on which her elderly husband sits while he sexually abuses her, in what may probably be China’s first, and perhaps last, bondage-style film. In order to save herself (the old man had already beaten to death two previous wives), she seduces his adopted son, and the resulting story of their infidelities is what the Chinese find most offensive. Just as Ju Dou is expected to accept her fate, even at the point of death, so are Han Chinese women required to restrict their sexuality in the services of the state. Similarly, minority women are allowed to be portrayed erotically because that too serves the interests of the regime. This may also be a contributing factor in the state’s general exemption of most minorities from the birth-planning program. Minority women are encouraged to be fecund; their bodies are less controllable than that of the ritually bound Han women. Perhaps one metaphorical reason the state exempts most minorities from birth planning is to preserve the notion that minorities represent uncontrolled sensuality, fertility, and reproductivity; Han represent controlled, civilized, productivity. Yet it is primarily not women’s bodies that are at issue, it is the state’s (and by extension, the patriarchal male’s) control of them.

135In a fascinating parallel to the “Thaibathers” motif pervading much of minority art, there is a critical moment in Ju Dou in which Yang Tianqing, the adopted son, voyeuristically observes Ju Dou bathing through a hole in the washroom wall. This scene bears striking resemblance to the voyeurism of the Miao men and film viewers of Miao women bathers in the Amazing Marriage Customs film described above. Note that in each case it is water and bathing that leads to the voyeuristic gaze and the construction of the sexual object. As he enlarges the hole for a better view, she discovers him and covers the hole with straw from the inside of the washroom. Later, she once again finds that he has removed the straw from the inside for an unobstructed view. This time, however, in a radical departure from traditional Chinese female modesty (but more like the Miao and Thai bathers), she allows him to view her naked body, savagely marked by his adopted father’s beatings. The shock engendered by her beautiful but grotesquely bruised body both compels and humiliates the viewer. Similarly, Han voyeurism of minority women, and the submission of Han women to the patriarchal social order, is what the state, for its own self-perpetuating reasons, considers proper in China.

136Zhang Yimou’s reversal of those roles in his film Ju Dou, delegitimates the state’s authority to objectivize the Other, both woman and minority, and this may be an important factor in the Chinese attempt to prevent its nomination for an Academy Award.

137By turning her gaze directly back on the adopted son, Ju Dou both humiliates him and establishes her subjectivity, resisting his use of her as an object of sexual desire. By taking her affairs into her own hands, and later seducing him, she establishes her own identity and asserts individuality.

Self-exoticization as resistance

138Minorities, too, by allowing the objectivizing gaze of the state-sponsored media, establish their identity and right to a voice in their own affairs, appropriating and turning whenever possible these objectivizing moves to their own benefit. In this way, the maintenance and assertion of minority “culture,” no matter how exoticized or contrived, may be seen as a form of resistance. By participating in their “training” by the Han Chinese state, supporting minority art and culture, they often find ways to promote values that may be contrary to the state’s modernizing program. Despite being willing participants, performers, and actors in the state and semiprivate public venues of theme parks and television shows, the “ethnic others” of China have found a way to express their many-layered selves in ways that both preserve and promote them. They are rarely conflicted about such mutual exploitations.

139These glimpses of a more naturalized, colorful, liberated, and sensual lifestyle, that urban Han Chinese now find so alien to their own living situations, contributes to their popularity as colonized and gendered subjects (see Chatterjee 1986: 624). It also might explain why minorities and their exoticized portrayal in the Yunnan Art School are extremely popular in the West, where many long for a similar naturalized lifestyle, often as a way of critiquing China’s image as a totalitarian homogenizing state. Successful marketization of these images in the global capitalist economy perpetuates minority/majority discourses in China and abroad. The appearance within and without China of books, courses, and institutions devoted to the study of “China’s Minorities” reflects this homogenization: the pretense that one could draw a clear line between the minorities and the rest of “Han” China. This chapter has argued otherwise, attempting to directly link minority with majority discourses in the public sphere. In China and elsewhere, constructing minority identities is directly related to that of the majority. As Hanness is related to “whiteness,” so the majority in China is invented as an unmarked category, courtesy of a subjugated, stigmatized, and identified minority.

Fig. 9.15. Chinese Ethnic Culture Park, Beijing

140Though alienated moderns may wax nostalgic over exoticized representations of imagined pasts, the belated arrival in China of Hobsbawm’s (1991: 163) universalized “nationality principle” coupled with the government’s expressed desire to be reckoned as a “modern nation-state” indicates that the identification, and exploitation, of minorities for tourist dollars and nationalization programs will mean their continued stigmatization as exoticized subjects—a stigma that they may only infrequently turn to their own benefit. Minority co-optation of these motifs may help increase their own autonomy, turning the tables of representation. Yet these attempts at subjectivity and independence will always be threatening to any totalizing, objectivizing state that seeks homogeneity of the majority at the expense of the minority. It is no surprise that Ju Dou was banned and minorities are encouraged to do little more than sing and dance in the People’s Republic.


1 Directed by Suen Wan and Guo Wuji, 1992.

2 For publication of photographs of Yuan Yunsheng’s airport murals, see “Magnificent Paintings: The Murals of the Beijing International Airport,” China Pictorial, 1980 (1), pp. 18-31; and Cohen 1987: 28-36.

3 Orville Schell offered a humorous portrayal of the burgeoning industry of sexually suggestive publications (Schell 1988), which led in part in 1989 to a widespread series of protests by Muslims offended by their depiction in a Chinese book, Sexual Customs (Xing Fengsu). In response to what was termed China’s “Salman Rushdie” incident, the State banned and burned the book, closed the publication house, and arrested the authors (see Gladney 1991: 1–15). Many of these publications have been strictly curtailed as “bourgeois liberalism” since 1989.

4 It is noteworthy that in the book upon which this film was based, the protagonist is sent to the rural countryside in a nonminority area, and the issues have less to do with dress and sensuality than with an affirmation of the naturalism of peasant life to which the Han woman must become accustomed. Sacrificed Youth relocates the episode to a minority area, where Han/minority issues come to the fore, further dramatizing the conservative repressiveness of dominant Han Chinese culture.

5 The half milliyet (“religious,” “national” or “ethnoreligious group”) in Turkey refers, of course, to the Gypsies.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 9.1. Some mosques in China look just like temples (Photo: Pál Nyíri)
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Titre Map 9.1. Ethnolinguistic Map of China
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Légende Fig. 9.2. Ting Shao Kuang, Silk Road. In Ting Shao Kuang, 1990, 7.
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Légende Fig. 9.3. Zhao Yixiong, Awakening of Tarim, in Cohen, 1987, 54.
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Titre Map 9.2. Distribution of the Hui in China
Légende Each dot represents 3,000 Hui MuslimsOutlined area at center represents the Ningxia Hui Autonomous RegionSource: Glagney, Muslim Chinese, 1991, ii.
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Légende Fig. 9.4. Oxen Street Mosque, Beijing
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Titre Map 9.3. Xinjiang (
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Légende Fig. 9.10. Kashgar International Trade Market (Photo: Jorg Schmiedmayer)
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Titre Fig. 9.11. KAZAK LINEAGE
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Légende Fig. 9.13. Kazakstan’s flag and national emblem
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Légende Fig. 9.14. Kyrgyzstan’s flag
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Titre Map. 9.4. The “Han” as minzu, majority nationality
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Légende Fig. 9.15. Chinese Ethnic Culture Park, Beijing
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Dru C. Gladney is Professor of Asian studies and anthropology at the University of Hawai’i. He has pioneered the study of contemporary Central Asia as well as of Muslims in present-day China and written or edited five books on these subjects and on comparative nation-building. Apart from minority and majority nationalism, transnationalism, the nation-state, global/local identity, and religion in China and Central Asia, his research interests also include conflict resolution, comparative Islam, cultural tourism, and nomadism.

© Central European University Press, 2005

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