China and Byzantium both saw themselves as civilizations menaced by "barbarians," and periodically established empires that ruled over them. In this episode, Ying Zhang (Ohio State, an expert on Ming China) moderates a discussion between myself and Shao-yun Yang (Denison University), author of The Way of the Barbarians: Redrawing Ethnic Boundaries in Tang and Song China (University of Washington Press, 2019). How do imperial societies talk about barbarian or ethnic groups? How might we identify those groups, when they are used so often in the rhetorical construction of Chinese / Roman "orthodox" identities? Can our two fields find a common language in which to discuss these questions? My heartfelt gratitude to Shao-yun and Ying: you have been wonderful guides for your fascinating fields.
August 27, 2020