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The Ethnic Reality in ‘Homemade Narration’

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image of Inner Asia

This paper analyses the variegated narratives by ‘minority nationalities’ in China, hoping to understand the dynamics of their ethnic consciousness. I focus on the Mongols in Henan Mongolian Autonomous County of Qinghai Province – hereafter Henanmengqi – where ‘Tibetanisation’ has been longstanding in culture and language. In recent decades, they have been subject to the state's ethnic classification and thus have been conscious of their relationship with the neighbouring Tibetans and other Mongols in and out of Qinghai. In this paper, the following themes on their daily experiences are discussed: What significance does the nationality category of Sogpo (‘Mongol’ in Tibetan) hold for the Henanmengqi people? Who (which group) should or should not be included in Sogpo? In what situation does the semantic content of Sogpo change? The Henanmengqi people are not free to choose their nationality category, and are often caught in the conflicting categorisations by the state administrators, scholars, other Tibetans and Mongols. I pay particular attention to the power dynamics in such relationships and the strategies taken by the Henanmengqi people to negotiate with external powers to form their nationality behaviours. Finally, I will discuss in general the characteristics of what may be called the grammar or reality of ‘homemade narration’ by ethnic minorities.


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