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stuart hall

stuart hall

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Official and Vernacular Identificationsin the Making of the Modern World:Case study in Yunnan, S.W. ChinaSubmitted by:Xu Jianchu, Andy Wilkes and Janet SturgeonCenter for Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge (CBIK)
1. Introduction .....................................................................................................................................21.1 What is CBIK’s interest ........................................................................................................21.2 Official and vernacular identifications ..................................................................................21.3 The ‘Developmental State’: a historical review ...................................................................32. Research Objectives ........................................................................................................................53. Research Topics ...............................................................................................................................63.1 Cultural diversity ...................................................................................................................63.1.1 Cultural diversity in the Honghe valley ....................................................................83.1.2 Cultural diversity in Tacheng ....................................................................................83.1.3 Multi-ethnic family ....................................................................................................93.1.4 Cultural Identity in Pu-er ...........................................................................................93.2 Cultural assets .......................................................................................................................93.2.1 Research on Dongba cultural revival ......................................................................113.2.2 Research on Hand-made paper ...............................................................................123. 3 ‘Poverty’ and resettlement ..................................................................................................123.3.1 Being ‘poor’ in Nujiang ..........................................................................................143.3.2 Resettlement from Nujiang .....................................................................................143.3.3 Sedentarization of the Kuchong people ..................................................................154. Methodological approach ..............................................................................................................154.1 ‘Cultural mobilization’ ........................................................................................................164.2 Actor Network Theory ........................................................................................................185. Organizational issues .....................................................................................................................205.1 Timetable .............................................................................................................................205.2 Management ........................................................................................................................21
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1.
Introduction
1.1 What is CBIK’s interest
As part of a global collaborative research network, CBIK has chosen differenttopics for research, and at least one case study within each topic. The topics chosenfor Yunnan are: cultural diversity, poverty and resettlement, and cultural assets andtourism. These topics have been chosen (a) in consideration of the research themeoutlines and (b) in consideration of CBIK’s role as a socially engaged NGO. We hopethrough case studies, at the same time as contributing to the goals of the globalresearch project, to also gain new understandings of the position of CBIK as an actor in relation to other actors within the fields researched.CBIK’s mission is as follows:
To enhance the ability of local groups to strengthen their evolving cultural traditions while finding innovative solutions for improving their livelihoodsand enhancing biodiversity through interdisciplinary research, capacitybuilding, participatory approaches for intercultural dialogue and interactionsamong local and scientific cultures, languages and knowledge systems inSouthwest China.
CBIK, as socially engaged learning organization, we have selected topics for research that would make contributions to our own understanding of our ownpractice, as well as the practices of partner organizations and individuals involved inboth research and practice in the fields of cultural resources, biodiversityconservation, poverty alleviation and social development. The topics suggestedbelow cover the main program areas of CBIK as well as the main strategic policyareas of the Provincial Government.
1.2 Official and vernacular identifications
The aim of the global research project is to “rethink the fundamental categoriesof ‘identity studies’” by introducing new methodologies and new empirical data. Thecore concepts, deriving from recent work by Peter Sahlins and James Scott aroundwhich the global research is based are concepts of ‘official identificationsand‘vernacular identifications’. According to the project documents, these can be seen asreferring to the ways in which self-consciously ‘modern’ states have sought to defineidentities (e.g. ethnicity, modern-backwards, special groups, citizenship etc) and thecontrast with alternative identities arising from other sources and recognized or championed by other groups within society. Thus, official identifications arecontinually challenged and subverted by alternative identifications and by alternativeappropriations of state identifications for other purposes. This also implies thatidentities are continuously in motion and often are situationally defined, although itmust be recognized that some identities ‘stick’. This research then seeks to ask howare official and vernacular identifications established, how they come to have forceand resonance in society, and how they interact and conflict with each other,
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producing hybrid and unexpected forms of expressions of identity. The focus of theresearch is therefore on ‘identities’ as socially constructed artifacts.This research is going on in France, Russia, Central Asia, Thailand and Yunnan.In each region, research will focus on three main themes:
Membership
(inclusion and exclusion within the state)
Geographies of identification
(how spaces are defined and the impacts of this)
Placement and displacement
(the state’s project of fixing mobile and sedentarypopulations within its borders).The Yunnan (China) group felt that research on issues relating to ethnicity inrelation to national borders and sovereignty would be politically sensitive, and alsodifficult for Chinese nationals to conduct cross-border research. Thus we selected aset of topics that relate to the above themes based on two understandings: (1) themain presence of the state in Yunnan is in the form of a ‘developmental state’; (2)CBIK and its partner institutions are socially engaged actors. It is on the basis of these two premises that the research topics and case studies have been chosen.
1.3 The ‘Developmental State’: a historical review
The historical origins of ‘the Chinese nation(
zhonghua minz
) has beenextensively researched, though many divergent opinions exist. ‘Chinese-ness’ hasalso become the focus of much research in the context of historical emigration, andthe more recent growth of China’s position in the global economy. Studies of communities of Chinese origin in different parts of the world show many interestingnew configurations of ethnic and local identities in relation to nations, citizenship andculture. Within China, there are also many different ethnic groups. Issues concerningthe identification of ethnic groups (“national minorities”) in China have beenpreviously researched by both Western and (more recently) Chinese scholars. It iswidely recognized among both Western and Chinese scholars that the state’sprocess of ethnic identification in the early 1950s was heavily influenced by theneeds of the newly forming state and its Stalinist conception of ethnicity (see e.g.volumes by Steven Harrell). One interesting conclusion that might be drawn from thisliterature is that the identities of different ethnic groups have been formed in closerelation to the formation and transformation of the nation state, and through theprocess of the state extending its administrative control to remote areas.While there is still much room for researching vernacular identifications and their contrast with state identifications among many ethnic groups of Yunnan, CBIK feelsthat this issue has already been highlighted sufficiently in the existing literature, andfurther work that avoids political sensitivity would thus be of limited value toscholarship at large and to CBIK and its counterparts. Thus, in considering potentialresearch topics, CBIK has sought to develop a perspective on ‘official’ and‘vernacular’ identifications that fits sufficiently well within official discourses, and yetallows room for critical perspectives on issues of identity in Yunnan in ways that areconstructive. In seeking this perspective, the role and identity of the state as a
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