a writing response paper about an article

Length: 1½ – 2½ pages

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Format: Double-spaced or 1.5-spaced


Read Sautman 1997 (“Myths of descent, racial nationalism and ethnic minorities in the People’s Republic of China”). If there are any aspects of the paper you don’t understand, feel free to ask for clarification.*

Write a response paper. Your response should not be a piece of academic writing; rather, it should express your intellectual and/or emotional reactions to what you have read. For example, you could choose to write on one or more of these questions: In what ways do you agree or disagree with the approach or descriptions of the author? How do the author’s comments relate to what you have learned through class readings or lectures? (The Baranovitch article may be particularly relevant.) Does the content of Sautman’s article have any connection with your personal experiences growing up in the US, in China, or elsewhere?

Your grade will be based on

  • coherence and organization of your paper, general clarity of the writing
  • accurate understanding of the issues raised in Sautman’s article
  • connection to other material (whether readings, lectures, concepts, etc.) from the course
  • evidence of careful thought and reflection

Aside from these requirements, you have considerable freedom to decide the content of your paper.

* The following notes on terms used in Sautman may be helpful to you when you read the article.

“Nationalism” is an ideology. It is a belief that national identity should be strengthened and prioritized over other loyalties. Nationalism generally implies pride in national identity and an assumption that national identity should be based on certain common characteristics (such as culture, language, race, or religion) perceived as superior to those of other nations.

“Racial nationalism” specifically advocates a race-based definition of national identity, i.e. the view that citizenship of a nation should be restricted to people of one race.

If you wish to invoke racial nationalism to define national identity, but in a way that includes people usually thought of as belonging to different races, then you need a claim of shared biological descent, which may be a myth. This is what Sautman’s article is about. There are various possible sources of such myths; Sautman uses the term “chauvinist” to refer to myths that are connected to one particular ethnicity. For example, a Mongolian-chauvinist type of racial nationalism for China might claim that all peoples of China, including the Han, are “descendants of the wolf”.