China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This panel investigates the concept of “cultural heritage” as both a political category and a discursively fertile ground for ethnic groups to re-construct their traditions, interpret their relationships to the nation, and negotiate their place in multicultural Asia. Across China and Inner Asia, “heritage” has become an ideological and cultural instrument for minority groups to imagine ways of being simultaneously ethnic and modern, countering normative movements toward homogenizing modernity. How do co-ethnics across national borders shape the articulation of ethnic heritage? Is heritage discourse a vehicle for forging inter-ethnic and/or supranational identification as a form of alternate modernity? This diverse panel draws together junior and senior scholars from literature, anthropology, and ethnomusicology, addressing the issue of how ethnic groups position themselves and define value in relation to complex inter-ethnic and international flows within the interconnected spaces of Asia.
The panel illuminates how minority groups strategically navigate ethnic, national, and transnational influences to articulate “heritage” and imagine their identities in Asia. Charlotte D’Evelyn and Kip Hutchins probe the question of cultural authenticity as ethnic Mongol musicians craft Mongolian musical heritage around contested sites of rural/urban and Inner/Outer Mongolia. Ujin Kim investigates the linguistic heritage of Turkic speakers in Xinjiang, who negotiate their uses of Arabic script as a language of aesthetic choice and Mandarin Chinese as a language of practical modernity. Yanshuo Zhang reveals how ethnic Qiang and Yi writers and villagers in southwest China formulate inter-ethnic links to challenge contemporary China’s relentless pursuit of secular modernity.