University of Leicester
2020WANGYHPHD.pdf (4.98 MB)

Representing ethnic minority cultures in China: Museums, heritage, and ethnic minority groups

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posted on 2021-11-30, 14:05 authored by Yahao Wang
Ethnic minority groups (shaoshu minzu) have continued to be silenced in Chinese museums’ expert-led representation of their cultures. Museums in China, instrumentalised by the governments, exert their authority over cultural representation through exhibitions to present ideologies such as ‘diversity in unity’. The representational politics of some museums lie behind their inequitable power relations with ethnic minority groups in terms of exhibition making and programmes management, inviting intensive criticism. Drawing upon critical museology and critical heritage studies, this thesis calls for the reconsideration of power relations and the marginalised voice within the interdisciplinary field. It explores the impact of ethnic minority cultural heritage discourses and practices on the representational practices of museums and ethnic minority groups and their relations.
This thesis sheds light on how official cultural heritage ideologies and policies shape and change museums’ social roles and their museological practices, and how museums interact with ethnic minority groups and form new connections with them beyond exhibitions. Examining two types of museums dedicated to ethnic minority cultures, the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi and the Longsheng Longji Zhuang Ecomuseum in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China, it foregrounds ethnic minority communities’ exercise of their active agency in relation to heritage construction and cultural representation. Both museums framed by the authorised heritage discourses act as heritage agencies that are sites of contact and contestation. This study interrogates how ethnic minority groups’ heritage constructions resist, negotiate or appropriate museological practices within official heritage discourses. It argues that museums’ authoritative cultural representations and practices can be shaped and mobilised by ethnic minority groups to serve their self-representation and self-expression.



Stacy Boldrick; Yunci Cai

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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