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To Dress or Not to Dress: Body Representations of the Ethnic Minorities on China's Southwestern Frontiers

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image of Inner Asia

This paper aims to draw attention to the ways in which China's political authorities and intellectual elites have been using 'dress' either to imperialise or to nationalise the ethnic minorities of Southwestern frontiers since the late qing. it argues that the intensely politicised nature of costumed body and embodied dress of the Southwestern minorities is a stage for debates about civilisation, diversity, Darwinist evolution and the uniqueness of China's modernity. it suggests that the body of the Southwestern ethnic and the dress as its vestimentary representation form a mutually reinforcing semiotic system, functioning as a visual means to shape China's power structure.


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