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Chapter Summary

This introductory chapter presents an overview of this book, which enriches the anthropology of China by framing ethnicity issues in terms of local politics and inter-relationships between levels of government. Dominating if not actually defining contemporary studies of China?s ethnic minorities are two recurring theses, both entrenched in the paradigm of the monolithic state: that of the Han and non-Han dichotomy, and that of cultural assimilation. Emphasizing historically conditioned transformations, it explains the operation of the Chinese state on the national periphery and, simultaneously, the experience of this rule by local society as well as state agents. Pursuing change and continuity in social, political and economic circumstances where interaction between state and society occurs, the book illuminates variations in the state penetration of frontier societies, and the impact state and local society have on each other.

Keywords: Chinese state; cultural assimilation; ethnicity; Han dichotomy; local politics



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