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Performing ethnocultural identity on the Sinophone Internet: testing the limits of minzu
journal contributionposted on 2022-01-17, 23:24 authored by James LeiboldJames Leibold
This article explores what happens to the Chinese Party-state’s notion of minzu (nationality, ethnicity or ethno-national identity) in the vastness of cyberspace. The idea that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) comprises 56 distinct yet united minzu groups has encapsulated and circumscribed the performance of ethnocultural diversity in mainland China over the last 60 plus years. In this article, I seek to demonstrate how the Internet helps to loosen the Party-state’s grip on ‘Chineseness’ and its related categories of identity, opening up new spaces for the articulation of a wide range of ethnocultural subject positions that both self-define, mediate and, at times, even transcended minzu-ness. At the same time, however, the fractured and transitory nature of these online congregations renders them largely inconsequential when faced with a powerful and authoritarian Party-state and its robust regime of minzu classification and minzu-based policies inside the PRC.