Edited by Xiaowei Zang
Chapter 12: Representations of Chinese minorities
In chapter 12, Louisa Schein (with Luo Yu) makes the case that a rigorous examination of how minorities have been portrayed in Chinese public culture must be driven by attention to the effects of such portrayals. Schein studies the discourses of superiority – or what Schein calls “supremacism” – within the Chinese social field. Commonly, analysts have amalgamated the symbolic counterpart of minorities into the monolith Han/ state/ urban/ intellectual elite/ masculine/ modern/ civilized/ center, and so on, resulting in a complementary signifying chain in which representations of the non-Han would bundle the feminine, the natural, the primitive and myriad other associated attributes. When Schein examined this issue in 1990, she described a process of “internal orientalism” that arose out of the perceived void at the core of Chinese national identity. Given rapid social changes since then, Schein asks: How might this imaginary have morphed in more recent eras? Who, exactly, is doing the othering at given periods in time and in specific instances? And who is othered? When minorities represent themselves, what is reworked and what is reiterated from dominant culture? Schein examines mainland scholarship on minority representation, considers two case studies of minority self-representation, and then entertains the possibility of what Schein gloss as a “post-alteric” social imaginary that may be on the rise in the public culture of China’s twenty-first century.
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