Between Tibetan and Chinese: Identity and Language in the Chinese Southwest

Katia Chirkova
2007 South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies  
This paper focuses on the ongoing process of changing local ethnic identities in the South-West of China. The analysis is based on a comparison of two ethnic groups: Xùmǐ and Báimǎ, both officially classified as Tibetans. While the experienced ethnic identity of the Xùmǐ is in conformity with their official classification, the Báimǎ feel their own identity as being distinct from the classification imposed by the state. The related changes in local identities are examined with special emphasis
more » ... special emphasis on the role played by the Xùmǐ and Báimǎ languages in creating and assessing group identity. I conclude that for both groups, albeit for various reasons, language is neither the major constructive element of ethnic boundaries nor an exclusive marker of ethnicity, which confirms Haarmaan's (1986) postulation that language is not a necessary criterion of ethnicity.
doi:10.1080/00856400701714047 fatcat:myg7b3socvaodhg555kbbltvme