Communist Multiculturalism

Ethnic Revival in Southwest China

Susan McCarthy
Foreword by Stevan Harrell

  • Published: 2009
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Politics
  • Bibliographic information: 248 pp., 15 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Studies on Ethnic Groups in China
  • Contents

The communist Chinese state promotes the distinctiveness of the many minorities within its borders. At the same time, it is vigilant in suppressing groups that threaten the nation's unity or its modernizing goals. In Communist Multiculturalism, Susan K. McCarthy examines three minority groups in the province of Yunnan, focusing on the ways in which they have adapted to the government's nationbuilding and minority nationalities policies since the 1980s. She reveals that Chinese government policy is shaped by perceptions of what constitutes an authentic cultural group and of the threat ethnic minorities may constitute to national interests. These minority groups fit no clear categories but rather are practicing both their Chinese citizenship and the revival of their distinct cultural identities. For these groups, being minority is, or can be, one way of being national.

Minorities in the Chinese state face a paradox: modern, cosmopolitan, sophisticated people - good Chinese citizens, in other words - do not engage in unmodern behaviors. Minorities, however, are expected to engage in them.

"McCarthy makes the important conclusion that minority members' own promotion of their culture is to a large extent a way of asserting citizenship rather than a way of establishing dissent. She challenges theories of nation and ethnicity that tend toward regarding internal cultural diversity as a threat to internal cohesion."
-Mette Hansen, University of Oslo

"McCarthy provides rich new ethnographic materials on the contemporary Dai, Bai, and Hui in Yunnan, and contextualizes these materials in each minority's pre-Communist and Communist history. She is fully conversant and engaged with the large literature, in Chinese and English, on ethnic minorities in China."
-Maris Boyd Gillette, Haverford College

Foreword by Stevan Harrell

1. Culture, the Nation, and Chinese Minority Identity
2. The Dai, Bai, and Hui in Historical Perspective
3. Dharma and Development among the Xishuangbanna Dai
4. The Bai and the Tradition of Modernity
5. Authenticity, Identity, and Tradition among the Hui

Chinese Glossary

"Make[s] important contributions to the existing perspectives on China's ethnic minorities not least for their new rich ethnographies and research findings. One . . . major input is the exploration of the 'big' questions on Chinese national identity, citizenship, and modernity from the perspective of ethnic minorities."
-Elena Barabantseva, Asian Ethnicity, October 2011

"McCarthy's fine study is an important new contribution to evolving understandings of 'multiculturalism with Chinese characteristics,' forcing readers to contemplate how completing forms of ethnic nationalism interacts with shared forms of citizenship practice. This book is a must-read for both scholars and students of ethnic relations in Reform-era-China."
-The China Journal