Making the Majority: Defining Han Identity in Chinese Ethnology and Archaeology


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




According to the People’s Republic of China, 56 ethnic groups combine to form the Chinese nation, though the Han constitute China’s overwhelming majority. The Han officially comprise 92% of China’s population and number in excess of one billion, the largest ethnic group on earth and 20% of the world’s population. But just who are the Han, and how are they identified? By examining the history of Chinese anthropology, this study engages interpretations and representations of Han identity across heuristic and spatial boundaries to show that the concept of Han is fluid, evolving, and ultimately political, though belief in the Han was key in constructing the Chinese national narrative and continues to inform the negotiation of Chinese identities.