Questions of gender: Ethnic minority representation in post-Mao China
The burgeoning scholarship on ethnic minorities in the People's Republic of China has shown how minorities are often represented as feminized subjects in popular culture, film, museums, and tourist encounters. This scholarship has advanced a new critical understanding of the relationship between post-Mao nationalism and the display of minorities as objects of difference. This article builds on this scholarship by exploring how minority scholars have produced their own accounts of their people's cultures, histories, genders, and ethnicities throughout the post-Mao period. Specifically, it examines an essay written by the Yao scholar Liu Yulian in the early 1990s on the indigenous reproductive practices of the Chashan Yao subgroup, who live in the Jinxiu Yao Autonomous Country in Guangxi. Her essay utilizes the theories of Marx and Engels on social reproduction to redress the ways in which the Chashan Yao had been classified, struggled against, and marginalized in Jinxiu County and it aims to promote a new interpretation of the Chashan contribution to China's socialist modernization agenda. Yet her work also raises a series of questions about how minority scholars were speaking for local communities and local realities. Rather than see Liu's writings as yet another example of China's practices of internal or "Oriental Orientalism," this essay situates Liu's research in the context of local debates among minority scholars and other elite over who possessed the right to speak for and represent socialist modernity. And it suggests that new ethnographic and theoretical attention should be placed on how different actors perceive and understand the stakes of different styles and forms of ethnic and gender representation.
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