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Title: Images of minorities, memories of bandits : negotiating local identities in lowland West Hunan
Author: Rack, Mary
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1999
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This thesis is based on thirteen months of fieldwork carried out in West Hunan Tujia and Miao Minority People Autonomous Prefecture in China, particularly focusing on the city of Jishou and in the surrounding rural areas. Official images of Jishou are loosely based on the way of life of the highland, Kho Xiong speaking Miao people, giving the impression that Jishou itself is a 'minority' (shao shu minzu) area. The nature of my fieldwork, brought me into contact with lowland, Chinese speaking people, often of mixed descent, who, though considered by outsiders to be 'minority', describe themselves and their cultural practices as 'local' (bendi). After discussing the context of social political and economic change in which, like other cities in China, Jishou is participating, I focus on the cultural activities which are considered to be characteristics of this area. In doing so, I contrast officially sponsored activities, which seek to promote of picture of West Hunan as a place of distinct but happily co-existing ethnic groups, with the 'local' activities recreated in recent years at local temples. Officially sponsored representation of the Miao appear as staged performances, appealing to non-locals as visually attractive images of an aboriginal 'Other', but with limited meaning for West Hunan people. In contrast, unofficial cultural practices, such as those at local temples, are participatory activities, through which people can come to terms with the effects of the rapid economic and political changes which are occurring in China today. Moreover, local stories and practices also provide a means by which people express identities based on shared locality and memory, suggesting that the official categorisation of ethnic difference fails to take account of complexities of local identities. Although they are officially discouraged, the flexibility of local cultural practices allows them to evade attempts to control them.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available