Critical Han Studies

It is a pleasure to announce the arrival of “Critical Han Studies: The History, Representation and Identity of China’s Majority,” now out on University of California Press (on the GAIA series). The volume was edited by Thomas S. Mullaney, James Leibold, Stéphane Gros, and Eric Vanden Bussche.

This volume offers eleven essays that interrogate what it means to be “Han” in China, both historically and today. Constituting over ninety percent of China’s population, Han is not only the largest ethnonational group in that country but also one of the largest categories of human identity in world history. In this pathbreaking volume, a multidisciplinary group of scholars examine this ambiguous identity, one that shares features with, but cannot be subsumed under, existing notions of ethnicity, culture, race, nationality, and civilization.

In an effort to initiate a conversation about this largely unexamined category of identity, the “Critical Han Studies Conference and Workshop” was organized by Thomas S. Mullaney, James Leibold, Stéphane Gros, and Eric Vanden Bussche. Hosted at Stanford University in April 2008, the conference brought together more than fifty scholars from eight countries. It is out of this academic collaboration that the present volume of essays has been produced, not so much as a microcosm of the conference, but rather as an initial wave of new scholarship on the Han category designed to define certain key issues and to help inspire further research, and represent the first step towards the creation of a new area of analysis, one provisionally titled “Critical Han Studies.”

The UC Press GAIA series offers the advantage of an open-access online edition.  (For the print edition, please see the publisher’s website.  If you would like to circulate the information, you can download a flyer.)

Table of Contents

Critical Han Studies: Introduction and Prolegomenon, by Thomas S. Mullaney
01. Recentering China: The Cantonese In and Beyond the Han, by Kevin Carrico
02. On Not Looking Chinese: Does “Mixed-Race” Decenter the Han from Chineseness? By Emma J. Teng
03. “Climate’s Moral Economy”: Geography, Race and the Han in Early Republican China, by Zhihong Chen
04. Good Han, Bad Han: The Moral Parameters of Ethnopolitics in China, by Uradyn E. Bulag
05. Understanding the Snowball Theory of the Han Nationality, by Xu Jieshun
06. Antiquarian as Ethnographer: Han Ethnicity in Early China Studies, by Tamara Chin
07. The Han Joker in the Pack: Some Issues of Culture and Identity from the Minzu Literature, by Nicholas Tapp
08. Hushuo: The Northern Other and the Naming of the Han Chinese, by Mark Elliott
09. From Subjects to Han: The Rise of Han as Identity in Nineteenth-Century Southwest China, by C. Patterson Giersch
10. Searching for Han: Early Twentieth-Century Narratives of Chinese Origins and Development, by James Leibold
11. Han at Minzu’s Edges: What Critical Han Studies Can Learn from China’s “Little Tibet,” by Chris Vasantkumar


Stéphane Gros

Stéphane Gros is a social anthropologist at the CNRS (France), Centre for Himalayan Studies. He has been conducting anthropological research in Northwest Yunnan province in China since the mid-nineties and published a monograph on the Drung, a long-deprived minority of swidden agriculturalists (La Part manquante, 2012). He has published a number of articles on issues of interethnic relations, ethnic classification, representations of ethnic minorities, gender and kinship, poverty and categorization. His more recent personal research investigates heritage politics and environmental discourses in this region. He is currently coordinating a collaborative project on the Sino-Tibetan Border, "Territories, Communities, and Exchanges in the Kham Sino-Tibetan Borderlands", funded by a ERC (European Research Council) Starting Grant. He is also Editor-at-Large at HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, an online and open-access anthropology journal.

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