University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Twentieth Century Think Tank > Non-Han bodies: anthropology, visuality and biopower in China's southwest borderland during the second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945)

Non-Han bodies: anthropology, visuality and biopower in China's southwest borderland during the second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945)

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This paper examines the biopolitics of non-Han bodies by probing how ethnicities were classified and conceptualized in Republican China. Extensive anthropometric research was carried out on non-Han populations in the southwest during the second Sino-Japanese War, during which several anthropologists turned to researching non-Han groups under the rubric of frontier politics (边政 Bianzheng). Through imagery, technology and statistics, Republican scholars sought to generate collective physical traits for non-Han populations, in order to justify state interventions, whether for ‘civilizing’ the non-Han, cultivating the frontier, reclassifying local ethnic groups or constituting a unifying Zhonghua Minzu. The paper emphasizes the legacies of late imperial ethnography on Republican frontier governmentality, in particular the ideas and techniques of representing racial orders through employing imagery and the body as tools. It thus enriches our understanding of the intersections of science, visuality and frontier biopower in Republican China.

This talk is part of the Twentieth Century Think Tank series.

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