Erica Fox Brindley
's new book is a powerful study of the history of conceptions of ethnicity in early China that focuses on the Hua-xia and the peoples associated with its southern frontier (Yue/Viet). Informed by a careful accounting of extant textual, linguistic, and archaeological forms of evidence, Ancient China and the Yue: Perceptions and Identities on the Southern Frontier, c.400 BCE-50 CE
(Cambridge University Press, 2015) reminds readers that there was no single "Yue" people (the term encompassed very different groups of people, depending on who was using it and how and when) and shows that "articulations of the self and Yue other were shaped by specific contextual needs or political exigencies." The book argues that an "imperial logic of centrality...played an important role in the unification of a Hua-xia center and self, and hence, the construction of marginal others in the process." Along the way, Brindley offers a window into the political histories of the key states associated with Yue peoples and cultures, considers a model of ethnicity in the Analects
, offers a fascinating account of hairstyles and other physical markers of Yue identity, and explores Yue resistance and rebellion. The conclusion suggests a more critical approach to the concept of sinicization.