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Shanzhai: creative imitation of China in highland Myanmar

Steinmüller, Hans ORCID: 0000-0002-5921-421X (2020) Shanzhai: creative imitation of China in highland Myanmar. Positions. ISSN 1067-9847 (In Press)

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The Wa State of Myanmar is often called ‘shanzhai China’, that is, a lesser imitation of China. This essay unpacks the material and symbolic implications of creative imitation at the Chinese periphery, embodied in shanzhai practices. Literally ‘mountain fortresses’, shanzhai refers to creative and ironic brand imitation in contemporary China. Until the 1950s, the inhabitants of the Wa hills did indeed live in mountain fortresses – both a pragmatic necessity as well as a miniature repetition of Chinese imperial rule. The pragmatic limitations and creative potential of imitating China is shown for the cases of Maoism, authoritarian capitalism, and contemporary nationhood. Rather than an essentialised feature of Chinese cultural practice, the practices of shanzhai reveal that material and symbolic re-combination are essential to creative imitation.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 Duke University Press
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2020 11:18
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2022 14:15

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