From Nationality to Ethnicity: Performative Politics in China

Naran Bilik 纳日碧力戈

Venue: Room 1505, 1555 Century Avenue, NYU Shanghai
Date: Monday, April 23, 2018
Time: 16:30 to 18:00 CST

Professor Naran Bilik will review the conceptual development of “ethnic minorities” in China: from the distinction of the Han and other ethnic groups in ancient times, to the PRC ethnic identification. Given this historical background, he will explore the interchangeability of “minzu” and “ethnic group” in political discourse. This presentation focuses on the conceptual incongruity between ethnic policies in China and the status quo of the ethnic minorities. Professor Naran Bilik argues that the earlier formula of “national in form, socialist in content” as applied in China is infested with political ambiguities and identity conflicts. Currently, the call by the top leadership for building a community of shared future for the Chinese Nation highlights the urgency of narrowing the gap between “Great Tradition” and “Little Tradition” with regard to minzu affairs, and of matching words with deeds, as well as symbolism with iconicity. It will be pointed out, however, that there has always been an uncontrolled incommensurability between the somewhat old minzu and relatively new ethnicity. It will be contended that China needs to learn anthropologically how to work out an overlapping consensus through diversity and to find a common thread that binds people and cultures together.

Naran Bilik (纳日碧力戈), Ministry of Education Changjiang Scholar, Distinguished Professor of Fudan University, Ph. D. in Linguistic Anthropology from the Minzu University of China (Beijing). Jane and Raphael Bernstein Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies, Carleton College, USA (2005-2009). Research fields include ethnicity and nationalism, semiotic approach to culture, minority education.

Introduction and moderation of the Q&A by Teng Lu,  Assistant Professor Faculty Fellow of Philosophy, NYU Shanghai.

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