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Title: Experiencing development on China's frontier : the Nuosu's bridewealth
Author: Zuoshi, Aga
ISNI:       0000 0004 8503 5287
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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The thesis investigates the "problematic" inflation in bridewealth among the Nuosu people in contemporary Liangshan, Southwest China, to elucidate how ethnic minorities engaged with various state-steered development projects. The study treats "development" as a historical process, in which the practice of bridewealth has been associated with the ethnicity of the Nuosu, and the inflation in bridewealth has been attributed to the "backwardness" of the Nuosu culture both in political discourses and policy-making of the state. The thesis discusses, through ethnographic materials, how the Nuosu of various statuses indigenise the "humiliation" inflicted on them by state development. The historical perspective and ethnographic method serve to show empowerment of the Nuosu as reflectors of their society. Nuosu on-going and dynamic negotiation and engagement with state definitions of ethnicity and legitimacy has thus led to the reification of the state as an interlocutor at the most local level and in core events of Nuosu's daily life, importantly the practice of bridewealth. The thesis reveals "the variants of development" rooted in the understanding/misunderstanding of planned templates for development. The variants are manifested by the multiplicity of voices and the creativities found in the narrations and implementation of development. By engaging with anthropological debates on the themes of "value" and "the anthropology of the good", the thesis demonstrates how the shift in the value attached to the Nuosu brides transvalues the external environment such as manifested in state investigations, regulations, and legislation. More importantly, the humiliation inflicted on Nuosu culture in the process of promoting development has not resulted in the depreciation of the value that define being a "real" Nuosu. Instead, the practice of bridewealth is informed by Nuosu collective values which simultaneously are creating values. The inflation in bridewealth highlights and transvalues the yearnings and desires of the Nuosu in their most exalted form, leading to a core insight of the thesis that values associated with a "real" Nuosu identity acquired their most forceful impact in the Nuosu encounter with state developmentalism.
Supervisor: Jaschok, Maria ; Murphy, Rachel Sponsor: Department of International Development ; T.D. Allman Scholarship ; Universities' China Committee in London
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: anthropology ; Chinese studies ; development studies ; social policy ; Asian studies