Making Mongols:  Representations of Culture, Identity, and Resistance

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Virginia Tech

Mongols in Northern China fear the end of a distinct cultural identity. Until the late 19th century, cultural differences between Mongols and Han could be seen through differences in each group's traditional way of life. Mongols were nomadic pastoralists. Han were sedentary farmers. Recent economic development, rapid urbanization, and assimilation policies have threatened Mongolian cultural identity. In response to this cultural identity anxiety, Mongols in Inner Mongolia have looked for ways to express their distinct cultural identity.

This dissertation analyzes three case studies derived from material cultural productions that represent Mongolian cultural identity. These include pastoralism, the use of Genghis Khan, and the Mongolian language. The analyses of different material cultural artifacts and the application of cultural and political theory come together in this dissertation to demonstrate how Mongolian cultural identity is reimagined through representation. In this dissertation, I also demonstrate how these reimagined identities construct and maintain ethnic boundaries which prevent the total absorption of a distinct Mongolian identity.

material culture, resistance identity, China, Mongols, ethnopolitics, Inner Mongolia