Modernization and Ethnic Groups of Southwest China

Course Code






Course Objectives

  1. To examine critically the scholarly literature on modernisation and development, as these are applied to the ethnic groups of Southwest China.
  2. To develop analytic, discursive and presentational skills, based on the subject matter of the course.
  3. To familiarise students with a range of policy issues arising from the subject matter, and further develop skills in policy analysis.
    To develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which culture and social structure are implicated in development issues.
  4. To develop further the capacity to analyse and critique methodologies, arguments, and underlying assumptions.

Course Contents

This course will survey the process of modernisation among the minority nationalities of South and Southwest China. The area surveyed includes the provinces of Guangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou, Hunan, Hainan and parts of Guangdong and Sichuan. The course will concentrate on ethnic groups during the Reform Era (1979-), but will also look briefly at earlier stages in the Chinese revolution and modernisation process. The course will begin with a review of recent debates on ethnicity, indigeneity and nationalism in modernising nation-states and a brief look at theoretical perspectives on ethnicity in the field of anthropology. It will go on to look at the theory of nationalities in Chinese Communist Party ideology, and the way this theory has shaped policy and political practice on the ground. A key issue turns out to be membership in minority ethnic groups, and here we will look at the history of ethnic classification in China. Another important issue is the extent to which members of minority ethnic groups can participate in the political process, and we will go on to consider that issue next. The rest of the course will be devoted to a survey of developments in the economy (Weeks 7-10), in education and culture (Weeks 11-14), and social structure and social practices (Weeks 15-18).

Lectures and key readings will be in English, but research materials in Chinese will also be discussed. Students will also be introduced to the use of basic sources of information about ethnic groups and local society, such as yearbooks, local gazetteers, the social history survey materials, statistical guidebooks, and on-line resources.