Fortress Village - The Ethnic Minorities of Southwest China  
Project Team Members

Wang Ming-Ke

Wang Ming-KeMy research mainly concerns “borders,” such as border space, people, and memory, to represent multiple dimensions of a society and power hierarchy in the different dimensions, and processes of history and historical memory of becoming of a border in order to shed light on cultural prejudice between different subjects. My doctoral dissertation concerned the variation of the western ethnic boundary of Chinese (huaxia) and related human economic and ecological changes from the Shang (ca. 1600 BC – ca. 1100 BC) to the Han (206 BC – 220 AD) period. After receiving my Ph.D. in 1992, I went further to combine both ethnic theory and collective memory and deploy them in my ethnic boundary research. In 1997, my book On Chinese Borders: Historical Memory and Ethnic Identity was published by Asian Culture Press. In this book, I constructed a theory and a methodology of Chinese border studies. I illustrated the formation of ecological borders of north China and the emergence of Chinese identity and borders using archaeological sources. I utilized historical memory and amnesia to explain identical variation of Chinese border groups. Last but not least, I used Taiwan and the case of contemporary Qiang people as a modern variation of this Chinese border issue.

From 1994 to 2002, I used summer and winter vacations to conduct one year’s fieldwork in the Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, western Sichuan. Based on the fieldwork materials, historical documents, and ethnographies, I wrote a book The Qiang between the Han and the Tibetans: a Historical Anthropological study of Chinese Borders published by Linking Books. In this book, first of all, I introduced the social and cultural complexity of contemporary Qiang people between the Han and the Tibetans and then explain the historical and cultural process of making the phenomenon of “the Qiang between the Han and the Tibetans.” This process involved the macro-historical process of the variation of people’s historical memory and historicity and the micro-social process of social emulation and discrimination among different intimate groups, such as men and women, local chiefs (tusi) and their followers, and neighboring peoples. So I argued that the Qiang people are not only an ethnic minority, but also a construction of the Chinese and Tibetan border. The ethnic process in the context of modern Chinese nationalism is a modern variation of western Chinese borders which transform the Qiang barbarians on the frontier to Qiang ethnic minority inside the national border. I offered a new interpretation beyond historical realism and modern constructionism with regard to the origin and formation of the Qiang people and Chinese nation.

The Institute of History and Philology’s earlier ethnographic fieldwork of southwest ethnic minorities is part of the modern construction of the chronic Chinese border variation. We are collating the works and collection of earlier scholars, such as Rui Yifu, Ling Chunsheng, and Tao Yunkui, making them public via the Internet in order to encourage more people to study related issues. One of the most important in these issues is how the academy, such as ethnology, linguistics, physiology, and historiography, contributes to the construction of subjects and borders in the context of Chinese nationalism during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Our purpose is not to deconstruct the earlier works which can seen as kind of imagination and construction, but to look forward to reflexing the prejudice of our own history and culture through our project.
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