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Reading: Ethnic Minority Language and Sinophone Minority Literature in China


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Ethnic Minority Language and Sinophone Minority Literature in China


Duncan Poupard

About Duncan
Duncan Poupard is Assistant Professor in Translation Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and is also a published Chinese-English and Naxi-English translator.
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Minority authors in China are generally conceived of as having two choices: they can make an attempt at becoming “major”, by repeating the major literature’s ideological praxis (successful examples may be minority authors who become literary “masters” such as Tibetan author Alai 阿来 and Miao-Tujia author Shen Congwen 沈从文); or conversely they can attempt to become (more) “minor”, reproducing regionalist and minority representations. This is perhaps best encapsulated by the turn of phrase used by Abram de Swaan: “there is a choice for authors between being a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond”. What I attempt to show in this article is the possibility of a third way, a refusal to play by the rules of the game, so to speak, by changing the fundamental framework of the literary territory itself. In the writing of Naxi author Sha Li 沙蠡 we see usage of ethnic language as a form of resistance not against the Sinicizing centre, but against the very notion of being peripheral (to refuse to recognize the existence of two separate “ponds”). Sha Li does this by deterritorializing Chinese in a way that moves the language away from its traditional centre. Sinophone minority literature thus becomes a way of reorienting the centre, a place where the centre is the periphery, and it is in these spaces that the reader can find an “authentic” China.

How to Cite: Poupard, D., 2022. Ethnic Minority Language and Sinophone Minority Literature in China. Writing Chinese: A Journal of Contemporary Sinophone Literature, 1(1), pp.37–59. DOI:
Published on 06 Jun 2022.
Peer Reviewed


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