Constructing the Chinese: Paleoanthropology and Anthropology in the Chinese Frontier, 1920-1950
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CitationYen, Hsiao-pei. 2012. Constructing the Chinese: Paleoanthropology and Anthropology in the Chinese Frontier, 1920-1950. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractToday’s Chinese ethno-nationalism exploits nativist ancestral claims back to antiquity to legitimize its geo-political occupation of the entire territory of modern China, which includes areas where many non-Han people live. It also insists on the inseparability of the non-Han nationalities as an integrated part of Zhonghua minzu. This dissertation traces the origin of this nationalism to the two major waves of scientific investigation in the fields of paleoanthropology and anthropology in the Chinese frontier during the first half of the twentieth century. Prevailing theories and discoveries in the two scientific disciplines inspired the ways in which the Chinese intellectuals constructed their national identity. The first wave concerns the international quest for human ancestors in North China and the northwestern frontier in the 1920s and 1930s. Foreign scientists, such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Amadeus Grabau, Roy Chapman Andrews, and Davidson Black, came to China to search for the first human fossils. With the discovery of Peking Man, they made Beijing one of the most prestigious places for the study of human paleontology and popularized the evolutionary Asiacentric theory that designated Chinese Central Asia and Mongolia as the cradle of humans. Inspired by the theory and the study of the Peking Man fossils, Chinese intellectuals turned Peking Man into the first Chinese and a common ancestor of all humans. In the second wave, from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, Chinese anthropologists like Rui Yifu, Cen Jiawu, Fei Xiaotong, and Li Anzhai made enormous efforts to inscribe the non-Han people of the southwestern frontier into the genealogy of the Chinese nation (Zhonghua minzu). Their interpretations of the relationship between the Han and the non-Han and between the frontier and the center were influenced by various Western anthropological theories. However, their intensive studies of the southwestern non-Han societies advocated the ethnic integration and nationalization of China’s southwestern frontier. By linking the two waves of scientific endeavor, this dissertation asserts that the Chinese intellectual construction of modern Chinese ethnogenesis and nationalism was not a parochial and reactionary nationalist “invention” but a series of indigenizing attempts to appropriate and interpret scientific theories and discoveries.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10086027
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