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Title: Knowing the Han from intimacy : ethnic boundaries and inter-ethnic conjugal relations
Author: Chen, Ze
ISNI:       0000 0004 7960 6178
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2018
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Inter-ethnic/cultural/racial marriage between minority and majority groups has been studied in many multicultural societies, but not in China. Scholarship has thoroughly explored ethnicity and the kinship system in China, but there is scarce literature that discusses inter-ethnic marriage, which highlights the intricacies of kinship and ethnicity. This thesis is concerned with the issues of ethnicity and inter-ethnic conjugality between two rival ethnic groups – the Li and the Han – on Hainan Island, where the inhabitants and cultures have rarely been mentioned in anthropology literature. Focusing especially on the local Han, the study examines how ethnic boundaries have been formed and internalised in the Han population in the past and the present, the ways in which these are intricately linked with the practice of intimacy in daily life, and to what extent they are influenced by ongoing social changes. The author spent 18 months on field research in the southern tip of the island, where interethnic relations remain tense and Han prejudice against Li people is still widespread. Ethnographic data were collected through observation of and participation in daily life, focusing on different inter-ethnic conjugal relationships: courtship, marriage, extramarital relations and casual sexual relations. Local historical archives were also consulted in order to contextualise this local ethnic dichotomy and the cultural connections between the two communities. The author argues that ethnic differences between Han and Li are fluid and even illusory; but ethnic boundaries persist through the Han's ability to articulate ethnic differences out of regional similarity. The thesis also reflects on existing literature on kinship practice, modern family reforms and changing private life in China: transforming patriarchy, the sexual revolution, the love revolution and the triumph of the conjugal family. It examines whether the modern norms of marriage, relatedness and practical kinship could mediate persistent ethnic boundaries and the way people still perceive and perform their ethnic identity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral