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


OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
Stéphane Gros (March 26, 2012). Critical Han Studies. The Himalayas and beyond. Retrieved July 18, 2024 from

Stéphane Gros

Stéphane Gros is a social anthropologist at the CNRS (France), Centre for South Asian and Himalayan Studies (CESAH). He is the author of a monograph on the Drung of Northwest Yunnan province in China (La Part manquante, 2012), and has written numerous articles and book chapters on issues of interethnic relations and representations of ethnic minorities, poverty and categorization, as well as rituals and cosmology. He has edited or co-edited four collections of relevance to ethnographic theory, Chinese studies, and area studies. For 2012-2016, he was the Principal Investigator for a collaborative project titled "Territories, Communities, and Exchanges in the Kham Sino-Tibetan Borderlands", funded by a ERC (European Research Council) Starting Grant. His personal research currently investigates aspects of kinship and social organization, conversion to Christianity, as well as heritage politics and environmental discourses.

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