Ways to be Hui : an ethno-historic account of contentious identity construction among the Hui Islamic minority nationality of China
This paper explores the contentious ethno-historical process of identity formation among the Hui national minority. For complex historical and practical reasons, the Chinese government defined the Hui as a minority nationality despite the fact that they lack the traditional Stalinist criteria that define other Chinese minority nationalities. Often simplistically defined as Sinophone Muslims, the Hui generally embrace their somewhat arbitrary categorization. The actual variety within the Hui category and its vague limits combine to form a framework within which various Hui groups contend to define what it means to be Hui. The pressure to maintain traditional Chinese Islamic communities, the desire to achieve a more pure version of Islam, and the allure of the material benefits of integrating into mainstream Han society have created tension within the Hui community for centuries. This thesis will contend that dialogue and contestation, shaped by external forces, but primarily taking place within the Hui community, are the driving forces behind the formation of Hui identity.