This article probes a long‐overlooked concept in modern China—ethnic indigeneity—to propose new ways of looking at the relationship between the Chinese nation and its multiethnic minority groups. The Western scholarly community has long held that because the Chinese state uses the Marxist‐tainted term shaoshu minzu (ethnic minorities) as the official designation for the non‐Han people, the concept of indigeneity is irrelevant to understanding China and its ethnic diversity. This article investigates how reform‐era China has witnessed the emergence of an indigenous cultural consciousness exhibited by the non‐Han people such as the Qiang people from southwest China. The article argues that minority groups like the Qiang are enthusiastic about “enterprising” their ethnic identities by writing minority histories into the foundational myths of a multiethnic, unified China and challenging the historical hierarchy of the “civilized” Han center and its “uncultured” non‐Han peripheries. By analyzing locally produced scholarly and touristic discourses, ethnocultural writing, and filming efforts in southwest China, the article proposes that “indigeneity” entails the interactive processes for a minority group to carve out its cultural, economic, and political spaces of creative belonging within the state by conversing with national narratives and contending for the epistemological authority to represent itself in multiethnic China.

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