China Beat Archive



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May 4, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright May 4, 2008. Used by permission.


Last weekend (April 24-27), I and about 70 other students, scholars, and members of the public attended the Critical Han Studies conference held at Stanford University. Organized by Tom Mullaney of Stanford and China Beat, Jim Liebold of La Trobe University, Stéphane Gros of Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and Stanford PhD student Eric Vanden Bussche, the conference drew scholars from around the world—China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, England, France, Belgium, Australia, Canada, and the U.S.—and from a wide variety of disciplines: history, anthropology, religious studies, literature, East Asian Studies, etc. Most importantly, it was a lot of fun.

With over 40 presenters, this event was a successful kick-off for a new subfield in China studies: Critical theories of Han-ness. Like critical theories of Whiteness as an invented racial category which shifts over time, Critical Han studies will cast an analytic eye on China’s racial majority. Given that roughly one in five people on earth could claim Han Chinese identity, this is a Herculian—or shall we say Panguvian—task, and the work has only just begun.