The research programme “Territories, Communities and Exchanges in the Sino-Tibetan Kham Borderlands (China)” has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration, European Research Council (ERC), Support for frontier research (SP2-Ideas), Starting grant n° 283870.

It is hosted by the Centre d'études Himalayennes, at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)

For further information and any questions, please contact the Principal Investigator, Stéphane Gros

CEH - UPR 299
7 rue Guy Môquet
94800 Villejuif CEDEX
Tél : 01 49 58 37 36
Fax : 01 49 58 37 28

Home > Aims and Themes > Theme 2 - Ethnicity, religion, and local identities

Ethnic categorization

In a recent article pulbished in a Special Issue of the journal Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie (2014), Stéphane Gros explores the history and complexities of ethnic categorization in the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands ("Devenirs identitaires dans les confins sino-tibétains: contextes et transformations").

This article discusses the fluidity of ethnic categorization in the context of changing ethnic relations, based on a diachronic and regional approach. It is argued that such an approach is needed to understand identity trajectories of peoples of the Sino-Tibetan borderlands. While studies on minorities in China are often limited to one ethnic group, the perspective defended here considers the interactions between several groups in specific contexts, and at different scales, which contribute to determine shifts in identity. The analysis focuses on the Sino-Tibetan borderlands of today’s Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, and the diverse and often Tibetanized groups located in these mountains. Taking into account the changing socio-political environment, mainly from the late Qing to the People’s Republic of China, helps us to uncover a number of factors determining the identity formation of the groups under consideration, and the persistence of a form of genealogical thinking. A range of cases is considered to provide comparative data at the regional level, supporting the degree of generality of the lability of ethnic categorization as well as identity changes, and the disjunctions between assigned categories, culture, language, and local identity.