SSP Research Seminar - The Trap of Mongolian MINZU in Today’s China: the management of ethnicities and their identities

We welcome Alex Cheeleger to speak at the next SSP Research Seminar.


It is a widely spread stereotype that China is a single monoculture country, populated entirely by the homogeneous people who all speak the same language. The fact is that the People’s Republic of China today is founded by combining Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Xinjiang, and other ethnic areas together. Indeed, there are 55 national minorities, known as the MINZU category, with state-certificated communities of people and distinct languages, customs, economic lives, and psychological make-ups in culture, whose autonomous habitats account for 64% of the country’s total land territory.

For most China studies, as well as researches on ethnicity in general sense, the MINZU category or any other ethno-category are usually believed as certain thing-in-itself. While tracing back to the period from the 1940s to the 1980s, the boundaries of in between the category are quite different and ambiguous. My thesis on Mongolian MINZU argues the MINZU category a series of official norms and administrative policies being created for purpose. Different from researchers like Waters and Song who argue free ethnic options, the Chinese ethnic youngsters are inevitably inheriting certain ethnic identity through a HUKOU system. From a grounded theory approach, some interviewees mentioned their feelings as being trapped by the category, while others expressed their willingness to take their ethnic identity into daily use. This paper will take this Chinese case to more general debates on the sociology of ethnicity.

Event joining details

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Meeting ID: 873 2700 1689
Passcode: 734477