“Have We Dug at Our Ancestral Shrine?” Post-Máo Ethnic Nationalism and Its Limits

Sigrid Schmalzer

in The People's Peking Man

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780226738598
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226738611 | DOI:
“Have We Dug at Our Ancestral Shrine?” Post-Máo Ethnic Nationalism and Its Limits

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This chapter, which examines the significance of Chinese discourse on human origins as a whole, including but not limited to issues of ethnic nationalism, asks: Is ethnic nationalism a sufficient explanation of Chinese preferences for theories that place human evolution on a Chinese stage? The answer is no. First, nationalism alone does not account for the ongoing debates in China and elsewhere. Second, where nationalism does play a role, it is not only or even primarily an issue of race or ethnicity. Third, while the Chinese state does frequently mine theories of human origins to construct a concept of the Chinese nation rooted in a biological concept of race, this construction is simultaneously destabilized by other meanings produced by scientists, laypeople, and the state itself. There is also the question of how people on the receiving end of science dissemination view fossils. The chapter suggests that many people have embraced Peking Man, Yuánmóu Man, and other human fossils not simply as early representatives of their nation or race, but in much more personal ways.

Keywords: human origins; human evolution; Chinese ethnic nationalism

Chapter.  17811 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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