China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: While scholars have investigated the representation of Chinese ethnic minorities as exotic, feminine, and backward in relation to Han and international audiences, the ways ethnic minorities themselves resist and complicate such trends is an understudied subject. This interdisciplinary panel considers the active deployment of ethnic-marked positions in dance performances, literary fiction, the literary marketplace, and the mediasphere as strategies of negotiation, dialogue, and self-definition that challenge Orientalizing representations. Emily Wilcox investigates the contribution of Uyghur performer Qemberxanim in forging and propagating a Uyghur-female dance style beyond Xinjiang’s geographic borders, thus gaining national and international recognition in ways that both deployed and redefined concepts of “the Orient.” Similarly, Robin Visser examines the ways Tibetan authors creatively incorporate in their fiction elements from local landscape and folk literary tropes to contrast dominant Han cosmological perspectives. Next, Yanshuo Zhang explores current Qiang intellectuals’ mobilization of digital technologies, such as smartphone applications and video-sharing platforms, to rejuvenate minority languages sometimes considered unprofitable in China’s reform era. Finally, Mario De Grandis considers the reprints and translations of a short story by Hui author Shi Shuqing to illustrate publishers’ strategic promotion, downplaying, and suppression of authors’ ethnicities. In each case, the representations of ethnically-marked positions propagated by individuals or institutions challenge stereotyped tropes without sacrificing individual and collective gains in symbolic and economic capital, enabling minority people to navigate uneven power dynamics and invent new aesthetic traditions in China. Tim Thurston will serve as discussant to spark an interdisciplinary conversation from panelists and audience.
Paper Presenter: Emily Wilcox – University of Michigan
Paper Presenter: Robin Visser – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Paper Presenter: Yanshuo Zhang – University of Michigan
Paper Presenter: Mario De Grandis – The Ohio State University