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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Imposing Nationalism on Diaspora Peoples: Korean Chinese in the Master Narrative of Chinese Nationalism


One of the most challenging aspects of the historiography of modern nation states is how to write diaspora peoples of an immigrant past into the national history, especially when the diaspora settlement pre-dates the birth of the modern nation state itself. The Korean Chinese as a minority nationality in today’s People’s Republic of China exemplify the myriad issues that occur when nationalistic historiography seeks to override and sanitize an uneven past. By looking at the impulse of Chinese nationalistic historiography in appropriating the subaltern past of Korean Chinese, this paper exposes and problematizes the master narrative of nationalism in history writing. Master narratives, by imposing "nationalism," a prototype modern set of values, retrospectively on a chaotic and contingent past render diaspora peoples particularly vulnerable to the sways of nationalism. Historians of diaspora peoples should therefore be critically aware that the past is full of contingencies that must be contextualized.

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