Constructing a Multiethnic China: A Book Project on Ethnic Minority Cinema as Indicator of Socio-Political Conditions of Modern Nation-Building

Project: Research project

Project Details


This research project aims at completing a book manuscript on the cinematic and other media productions about non-Han ethnic minorities in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from the 1950s to present. Five draft chapters out of ten are ready, and another 18 months are needed for more research to fill the gaps of the argument, to finish the remaining chapters and to edit the manuscript. The book investigates, with socio- historical contextualization and close textual-visual analysis, how ethnic minorities (which have been classified by the state into 55 nationalities) work within the complex conditions of multiethnic China in its ongoing project of nation-building. Multi- ethnicity can resist the smooth integration of the Chinese state-led system, which is, however, productive to understanding the changing meanings of being Chinese in the modern era. The complicated situation also allows us to seek possibilities for reconfiguring the existing order under the drives for political unification and the impacts of global capitalism. The research critically examines how the state apparatuses appropriate cinema and other media about the ethnic minorities in order to produce the PRC’s designed worlds, values and subjects which are intricately implicated in the processes of nation-building and ecosystem management. However, the multi-ethnic communities who are targeted to be assimilated threaten to topple the system.

I reflect on the nature of cinema in terms of the medium’s uniqueness and also its intertwined relations with other media. Being a distinctive genre produced in the PRC, ethnic minority cinema is understood in this project as an integral part of global media culture which can question ethnic-cultural essentialism and Chinese exceptionalism in the world system of the nation-states. The historical transformations of the state ethnic policy, from the legacies of the Qing multinational empire, through the Republic of Five Races and the Soviet model of multinational state-building, to the present depoliticized concept of “diversity in unity”, are scrutinized in order to more thoroughly grasp the mechanisms of ethnic representations and governance. Other than assessing the ideological and aesthetic implications of ethnic minority cinema and inter-medial products, my project studies how the process of modernization monitored by the Chinese state also sets in motion a new conception of liberation and a new desire of the governed to re-appropriate power for themselves. The research also contemplates the possible futures to which angst and crisis in China’s multi-ethnicity may lead.
Effective start/end date1/01/1830/06/19


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.