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Melvin Stephens

Identity construction and reconstruction: Naming and Manchu ethnicity in Northeast China, 1749-1909

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Campbell, Cameron D., James Z. Lee, and Mark Elliott. 2002. "Identity construction and reconstruction: Naming and Manchu ethnicity in Northeast China, 1749-1909." Historical Methods, 35(3): 101-116.

The authors reconstruct processes of ethnic identification among residents of rural northeast China from the end of the eighteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth through an analysis of naming behavior. They apply discrete time even history techniques to individual life histories compiled from longitudinal, nominative household-register data from state farms in what is now Liaoning Province to identify the individual and household circimstanes associated with the adaptation of Han or Manchu names, focusing on the role of heredity and status. Ethnic identification in late imperial northeast China was potentially fluid. Many residents were descended from migrants from Shandong who became hereditary tenants on state land administered by a system of Manchu government known as the Eight Banners. As banner people, or qiren, these residents could legitimately claim to be Manchu. As descendants of Shandong migrants, they could also claim to be Han. They could express their choice of ethnic identity through their choice of names not just for their children but also for themselves. Names not only express ethnic self-identification, but their registration by state authorities in the analyzed data also implies official recognition and legitimacy. The authors' results demonstrate that ethnic identity was not hereditary but subject to individual and family choice.

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