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Becoming and Unbecoming Tu: Nation, Nationality and Exilic Agency in the People’s Republic of China

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Chapter Summary

In the making of modern states, a sense of exile may be produced through the discourse and agency of inclusion as much as exclusion. In the 1950s, China assigned an official ethnic category, or “nationality,” to all its citizens, among them a group in northwest China who were registered as the “Tu nationality,” despite their self-designation “Monguor.” Constructed as Tu in the great family of the Chinese nation by Chinese linguistic, cultural, and political determinants, the Monguors found themselves in a state of exile from their own form of self-referencing, dispossessed from their own interpretation of origin, history, and identity. This chapter explores processes of Chinese culturalist classification of Others in the making of the modern Chinese state; how these worked to isolate the Tu from valued aspects of their self-identity; and how the Tu, given new opportunities in the post-reform period since 1978, have strategized to recover their own version of who they are.



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