China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
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 cinema, dance performances, 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, Chris Berry examines the ways Tibetan womanhood is constructed in the cinematic production of Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden. His female characters eschew sexualized representations and yet are alluring to the spectator in virtue of their entrepreneurial, modern roles. 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 avoid stereotyped tropes without sacrificing individual and collective gains in symbolic and economic capital, thus suggesting ways minority people navigate uneven power dynamics. The panel will end with a conversation elicited by Robin Visser’s remarks.