Theses Doctoral

Religion of the Father: Islam, Gender, and Politics of Ethnicity in Late Socialism

Ha, Guangtian

This dissertation examines the ethnicization of Islam among a specific ethnic group in China, namely the Hui. It is based upon sixteen months of multi-sited fieldwork conducted in China's Henan Province and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region from 2010 to 2012. I argue that the particular ethno-imaginary of the Hui and their positioning vis-à-vis the Han majority - that they are both non-Han and more Han than the Han - are predicated upon a particular sexual economy. Islam is situated in an imagined dissymmetrical exchange of woman as that whose presumed truth can procure for the Hui the feminine "Han blood." The "nativization" of Islam among the Hui, i.e. its supposedly never complete "sinicization," occurs through the figure of the Han woman.

In Part I of this dissertation, I trace the itinerary of this figure in both historiographical narratives of the Hui in the early twentieth century and the organizational variations of their contemporary life as Muslims in a swiftly-changing China. In Part II, I move to a more general level, and study two major institutions in the Chinese state's governance of ethnic difference, namely ethnic regional autonomy and ethnic cadre. I situate them within the socialist tradition and unpack their specificity in contrast to other political configurations in the governance of ethnic difference (e.g. liberal multiculturalism). I suggest that this socialist governance of difference is defined by a biopolitical logic, and argue that the link to sexuality that is intrinsic to the concept of biopolitics renders the Hui a particularly privileged site for exploring the complex relationship between the socialist politics of ethnicity and the socialist governance of sexuality.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Cohen, Myron L.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 3, 2014