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Critical Han Studies Symposium & Workshop

The first-ever Critical Han Studies Symposium & Workshop seeks to bridge the divide, and bring this fascinating area of research to the attention of a broader, international, and interdisciplinary community of scholars.

April 24, 2008 12:00am to April 27, 2008 12:00am

Call for Papers

Han is a colossal category of identity that encompasses ninety-four percent of the population of mainland China, making it the largest ethnic group on earth. Like other immense categories of identity, whether national, racial, ethnic, or otherwise, Han is beset by a host of linguistic, cultural, political, and historical inconsistencies that call into question its status as a coherent community. Despite this, however, Han has managed to fly below the radar of Critical Race Theory and largely above that of History, Ethnic Studies, and Anthropology.

The first-ever Critical Han Studies Symposium & Workshop seeks to bridge this expansive divide, and to bring this fascinating area of research to the attention of a broader, international, and interdisciplinary community of scholars. Participants will help conceptualize an agenda for the nascent subdiscipline of Critical Han Studies and develop materials to be published in two pathbreaking volumes: Critical Han Studies, an edited volume, and the Critical Han Studies Reader, a collection of primary source materials in translation for which the conference organizers have already secured a provisional contract. The conference is made possible thanks to the generous support of Stanford's Center for East Asian Studies, the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and the Dean's Fund.

Keynote and Featured Speakers. Mark Elliott, Dru Gladney, Xu Jieshun (Founding Director, Han Research Center, Guangxi Institute for Nationalities), Emma Teng, Frank Dikötter, Uradyn E. Bulag, C. Patterson Giersch, and Nicholas Tapp, among others. (Final itinerary subject to change.)

Conference Topics. The conference is organized with attention to (but not limited to) the following topical areas£†

* When did the category of Han come into existence, and when did it come into widespread use? Should we date it to the early imperial period, as many do; to the discourse of turn-of-the-century anti-Qing revolutionaries; to some point in between; or to some point after?

* What kind of category is Han? Is it an ethnocultural category, a racial category, a civilizational category, or something else?

* What is the relationship between the category Han and those indigenous, historical categories of identity which it absorbed (Huaren, Huaxia, etc.)? Likewise, how has the categorization and characterization of Chinese minorities shaped the category of Han?

* How does the category of Han operate in everyday life and at the local level? Does it matter or is it overshadowed by other axes of identity, such as gender, class, dialect group, and native place?

* What is Han when viewed from a regional and/or transnational perspective? How does the category of Han in China relate to, for instance, the category of Hoa in Vietnam or the Haw in Laos? Can the category of Han be applied to the broader Chinese diaspora, or is it limited to specific national contexts?

* How have modern academic disciplines (ethnology, linguistics, archaeology, etc.) configured the form, structure and boundaries of Han?

* How does the category of Han relate to the category of Chinese? In the contemporary world, are they treated synonymously? Historically, was it influenced by those colossal categories of identity which foreign observers used to describe the peoples of China ("Chinaman" in turn-of-the-century English language writings, "Shinanin" in Japanese discourse, the "Yellow Race" in Social Darwinian discourse, etc.)?

* What insights can a potential Critical Han Studies draw from Critical Race Theory? What insights can it offer in return?

* Are there meaningful connections to be made between Hanness and Whiteness?

Deadlines. The deadline for paper and panel proposals is December 3, 2007, and
should include the following information:

- Author's name, address (postal and email), institutional affiliation, and title
- Paper title
- Abstract (250 words)
- Author's biography (up to 150 words)
- Suggestions for 3 or more primary source materials the author feels should be
included in the Critical Han Studies Reader

Notifications will be sent out by January 14, 2007.  Full papers of accepted presentations are requested by March 14, 2008. Proposals and final papers should be submitted electronically to Professor Thomas S. Mullaney at

Special Note for Graduate Students. This conference strongly encourages proposals by graduate students. The organizers will be able to provide a limited number of Graduate Student Stipends in the amount of $200 each, with the understanding that students will seek out additional funds from their home institutions.

Conference Committee
Thomas S. Mullaney
Department of History
Stanford University

James Leibold
Asian Studies Program
La Trobe University

Stéphane Gros
Sociétés et Cultures en Himalaya
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique