©2007 Clayton D. Brown



"Making the Majority:

Defining Han Identity in Chinese Ethnology and Archaeology"

click here for live presentation summarizing this project

According to the People’s Republic of China, fifty-six ethnic groups combine to form the Chinese nation, though the Han constitute China’s overwhelming majority. The Han officially comprise over ninety percent of China’s population and they number in excess of one billion, the largest ethnic group on earth and twenty percent of the world’s population. Through a historical examination of anthropology in China, this study traces the development of Han as an official category and its central role in creating a “biography of the nation.” In the twentieth century anthropology became key to defining the Chinese and composing this national narrative. While archaeologists focused on China’s heartland in the Central Plains to seek out the roots of the Chinese “race” and civilization, ethnologists traveled to the feral and remote borderlands to study non-Han minorities. Elites imposed a legacy of barbarism on contemporary minorities, linking them to ethnonyms from ancient histories while Han assumed the role of ethnic Chinese, custodians of historic Chinese civilization, and the heart of the modern Chinese nation.

"Li Ji: Father of Chinese Archaeology," Orientations v. 39, no. 3 (April 2008)
An article-length biography of Li Chi (Li Ji), China's first anthropologist and the "father" of Chinese archaeology, with special emphasis on his enduring legacy and particularly his role as trainer and mentor to China's corps of archaeologists.
"Out of the Yellow Earth:

Archaeology and the Contest for China's National Origins"

click here for live presentation summarizing this project

A research article on the discovery and excavation of Anyang, capital of the ancient Shang dynasty, and its role in pioneering museology and cultural property law in China. Disputes between three museums--the Freer Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, the Henan Provincial Museum, and a national museum--led to the state's appropriation of China's cultural relics for the construction of a national biography.
Oral histories of twenty-three senior Chinese anthropologists

click here for interview list

Over the past four years I have traveled across China to a dozen different institutions to interview China’s preeminent anthropologists and archaeologists. From the over thirty hours of recorded conversations I have selected two brief excerpts to share:

Clip one [English] features Li Yih-yuan (Li Yiyuan), student of China’s first anthropologist, former director of the Academia Sinica Institute of Ethnology, emeritus professor of anthropology at National Taiwan University, and former president of the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, recalling his first meeting with China’s most famous social scientist, Fei Xiaotong, in the Pittsburgh home of C. K. Yang (Yang Qingkun), himself an accomplished sociologist and an old college roommate of Fei.

Clip two [Chinese] features Huang Shuping, an early student of both Lin Yaohua and Fei Xiaotong, recalling Fei’s personality and her unique experiences with Fei at an infamous May Seventh Cadre School.

Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh