Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

External kin, ethnic identity and the politics of ethnic mobilization in the People's Republic of China
by Han, Enze, Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2010, 316; 3413606
Abstract (Summary)

Why are some ethnic groups in a given country more politically mobilized than others? In particular, why are some ethnic minority groups, such as the Uighurs, are more political mobilized than other ethnic minority groups in China? Situated within the comparative literature, this dissertation examines conditions under which ethnic minority groups in China would be more likely to mobilize for more autonomy from the Chinese state. It pays special attention to the interactive process between domestic and international factors in the construction and maintenance of ethnic identity in China, and how a specific configuration between domestic and international factors contribute to the likelihood of ethnic minority groups mobilizing for more autonomy.

Adopting the triadic relationship model of ethnonational politics proposed by Brubaker, this dissertation makes three inter-related theoretical arguments. First, the presence of external kin is extremely important in constructing and maintaining an ethnic minority group's boundaries. Due to common cultural ties, such as language, religion, and so forth, cross-border communications and interactions between the ethnic minority group and its external kin can be frequent and intense. The encountering of external kin can produce a feedback function on the ethnic minority group. It provides an opportunity for ethnic minority group members to fully appreciate their commonalities and differences with both their external kin and the majority group of the state in which they reside. It is part of the negotiation among ethnic minority group members in their imagination of belonging. Second, specific configurations of reference frameworks engaging the ethnic minority group and its external kin weigh heavily on how an ethnic minority group perceives its living conditions within the current “host” state. A minority group is more likely to feel dissatisfied and to hold grievances against the domestic majority and the state if the group perceives that its external kin enjoy relatively higher standards of living. On the other hand, if a group perceives its external kin are worse off, the minority group would be more likely to feel content about their own current life conditions in the host state, even though they are subject to hardship and disparity when compared to the majority group. Finally, the external kin's actions toward the ethnic minority group are also extremely vital. Depending upon whether or not the external kin offer support, the ethnic minority group might develop different assessments of their belonging to a supranational ethnicity, which would in turn influence their calculation to mobilize for more autonomy or not. In this dissertation, I argue that it is only when external kin enjoy better living conditions and provide support for the ethnic minority group will we be able to expect the ethnic minority group to be more likely to mobilize.

This dissertation is primarily concerned with a comparative analysis of four ethnic minority groups in China—Uighurs in Xinjiang, Mongols in Inner Mongolia, Ethnic Korean Joseonjok in Yanbian, and Dai in Xishuangbann. It examines in detail the comparative framework each group engages with their external kin relations and the amount of external support each group receives. Through such a comparative study, this dissertation explores the discrepancies among these four ethnic groups in terms of political strategies that they adopt towards the Chinese state. It offers an explanation to account for why the Uighurs would seek overtly to gain more autonomy or even independence from the Chinese state, while other groups choose to either emigrate from or assimilate into the Chinese society. Other than these four cases, this dissertation also tests the main hypothesis using the Minority At Risk (MAR) dataset to see how far the argument travels.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Dickson, Bruce J.
Commitee: Goldgeier, James M., Hale, Henry E., Millward, James, Mylonas, Harris
School: The George Washington University
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 71/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Political science
Keywords: China, Dai, Ethnic identity, Ethnic politics, Joseonjok, Mongols, Uighurs
Publication Number: 3413606
ISBN: 9781124145730