Mimetic minorities: National identity and desire on thailand's fringe

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26 Scopus citations


Representations of identity are always political acts, but their politics are unpredictable. Among ethnic minorities in northern Thailand, there is a striking difference between the absence of ethnic markers from a political confrontation and the profusion of ethnic markers at non-confrontational festivals. I situate the difference in engagements with a national contact zone where so-called Mountain Peoples are denied political agency. Minority assertions of ethnic distinction and national compatibility take various forms that resonate with mimesis. Thai notions of Mountain Peoples suggest equally mimetic aspects of self-making through denied similarities. Theoretical approaches to mimesis emphasize interaction and denied resemblance as much as representation. Performances and imagery involving minority identity and difference in northern Thailand contradict common expectations of a fundamental tension between rural and minority communities and the state, and highlight often-overlooked dimensions of identity-work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-130
Number of pages23
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010


  • Mien
  • Mimesis
  • State-minority relations
  • Thailand

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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