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Exhibiting the PastHistorical Memory and the Politics of Museums in Postsocialist China$
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Kirk A. Denton

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780824836870

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824836870.001.0001

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Ethnic Minorities and the Construction of National Identity

Ethnic Minorities and the Construction of National Identity

Ethnographic Museums

(p.198) Chapter 9 Ethnic Minorities and the Construction of National Identity
Exhibiting the Past

Kirk A. Denton

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines representations in museums and theme parks of what in the PRC are called “ethnic minorities” (shaoshu minzu). Historically oppressed, non-Han ethnic groups in China came to occupy important places in political and cultural discourse and to constitute a central trope in the construction of national identity. After 1949, the Chinese communist government surveyed and classified ethnic minorities and then used images of ethnic diversity to promote the imagination of a polity unified by a shared political ideology. Ethnographic museums and exhibitionary sites in the PRC have been central to this political appropriation of non-Han peoples. The chapter considers how and why such exhibitionary spaces display the cultures of China's ethnic minorities. What are the political and ideological ramifications of displaying the cultures of ethnic groups to visitors who are mostly Han Chinese?

Keywords:   ethnic groups, ethnic minorities, China, Chinese museums, theme parks, ethnographic museums, Han Chinese

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