Investigating Southern Minority Nationalities
This chapter discusses the investigation of society and history of southwest Chinese minority nationalities in the mid-1950s. It argues that the officially sponsored investigation of non-Han minorities and writing of their history should receive more serious scholarly attention, rather than being dismissed as mere propaganda. Chinese social scientists trained in the West combined their earlier theoretical assumptions and methodologies with the Marxist theory of five stages of social development, emphasizing economic relations, property rights, and class struggle. These investigation reports accumulated a large quantity of firsthand primary sources, including pre-1949 communal documents and folk songs, and they still play an indispensable role in understanding the history, social life, and belief system of southwest minority nationalities. The investigation teams utilized the historical source materials and ethnographical data to write a standardized “brief history” for each state-recognized minority nationality centering on class struggle, revolution, and national integration. This process of knowledge production was a mix of empirical research and ideological propaganda.