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Modalities of Change

Modalities of Change: The Interface of Tradition and Modernity in East Asia

Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 262
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  • Book Info
    Modalities of Change
    Book Description:

    While in some cases modernity may dominate 'traditional' forms of expression, in others, the modern is embraced as a welcome source of new ideas that can modify 'tradition' while still keeping it within its own bounds. Maintaining a strong and distinct cultural identitywith the help of modernityhelps representatives of that identity cope with the modern world more generally. By contrast, assimilation to a dominant culture marked as modern is clearly associated with not only the loss of a distinct identity, but also its specific forms of cultural expression. This book explores the consequences of the interface between modernity and tradition in selected societies in Taiwan, mainland China and Vietnam. The contributors examine how traditions are themselves exploiting modernity in creative ways, in the interests of their own further cultural developments, and to what extent this approach is likely to help a tradition survive.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-571-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures, Tables and Diagrams
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    James Wilkerson and Robert Parkin
  5. Introduction Modalities of Change: The Interface of Tradition and Modernity in East Asia
    (pp. 1-20)
    James Wilkerson and Robert Parkin

    Change is a factor in the experience of any society. This has always been the case, at least in recorded history, despite the tendency to think that there is something special about the modern age – for example, that change is now more rapid, more far reaching, more violent. However, it is not something social or cultural anthropologists have always been comfortable in dealing with. This was most marked in the British school of functionalism of Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown because of their dismissal of the speculative history they saw in evolutionism (though Malinowski in particular was well aware of the impact...

  6. People’s Republic of China

    • Chapter 1 The House, the State and Change: The Modernity of Sichuan rGyalrong Tibetans
      (pp. 21-36)
      Wang Ting-yu

      Modernity is both global and plural, now as much a phenomenon of the countryside and indigenous peoples as it is of urban residents. In Africa, South Asia and South America, for example, religion is an important conduit through which indigenous people adopt modernity (Comaroff and Comaroff 1993; Kapferer 2002; Taussig 1980). For other indigenous peoples, secular, everyday life experiences provide such a conduit. This chapter explores modernity as experienced by indigenous Tibetans in a rural community in Sichuan Province in the People’s Republic of China. Here secular experience is the means through which modernity is realized, and the state plays...

    • Chapter 2 From Kinship to State and Back Again: Lineage and History in a Qiang Village
      (pp. 37-61)
      Liu Biyun

      The Qiang, numbering about three hundred thousand, are one of the fifty-five officially designated ‘national minorities’ in the People’s Republic of China; they speak a Tibeto-Burman language.¹ This chapter presents thecoufang(族房), lineage, or ‘people under the feet of one ancestor’, as the central social category and pivotal social grouping in Qiang social life.² Examination of thecoufanggraveyards uncovers the historical process whereby the village was incorporated into the imperial military network, as well as aspects of the transition to Han literacy. This chapter argues that thecoufangplayed, and continues to play, an important role helping villagers...

    • Chapter 3 Embroidery Speaks: What Does Miao Embroidery Tell Us?
      (pp. 62-92)
      Ho Zhaohua

      Clothing is a cultural medium through which people speak: it is a complex phenomenon deeply involved in identity and cross-cultural boundary setting. Examining the concept of ‘style’ contributes to our understanding of material culture. So how is the making of clothes significant for cultural and social reproduction? McCracken suggests we rethink the relationship between culture and consumption. He argues that the social sciences have been slow to see the relationship between these, and slower still to take seriously the idea that consumption can contribute to cultural and social reproduction (1990: xi). The clothing examined in this chapter is not merely...

    • Chapter 4 Tensions between Romantic Love and Marriage: Performing ‘Miao Cultural Individuality’ in an Upland Miao Love-Song
      (pp. 93-116)
      Chien Mei-ling

      Pierre Clastres notes that primitive societies are not ‘incomplete’, even without a state, literacy or written historical records (Clastres 1987). In line with this way of viewing and understanding non-modern or non-Western society, this chapter focuses on a peripheral society that has retained its autonomy by performing individuality within its own cultural contexts. This, however, does not imply an approach towards the morally autonomous individualism found in modern Euro-American societies.

      This chapter explores the local expression of individuality in the love-song performance of an upland Miao society in eastern Guizhou in south-west China, illustrated using extracts from a song of...

    • Chapter 5 Modalities of the One-Child Policy among Urban Migrants in China
      (pp. 117-133)
      Chang Kuei-min

      During 1979 and 1980, the one-child-per-couple policy of the People’s Republic of China became a fundamental national policy and was enforced nationwide through the mobilization of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the party-state (White 1990, 1994; Scharping 2003).¹ Afterwards, birth planning was written into the PRC Constitution as the obligation of each married couple.²

      Almost simultaneously, the leaders of the party-state launched an economic reform programme, vowing to lead the country in the direction of the policy goal of becoming a relatively well-off society (xiaokang shehui) based on ‘socialist construction’ in the next millennium. In the context of economic...

    • Chapter 6 The ‘Culture’ of World Cultural Heritage
      (pp. 134-150)
      Eveline Bingaman

      While the notion of culture may have been invented in Western academic circles, those circles no longer have monopoly over its usage. Even in academic circles, such as in the field of cultural anthropology itself, there has never been a single, standardized definition that holds the discipline together. The result of the notion’s entry into popular discourse has been a diversification of ‘culture’ as a concept so that its usage has been stretched to encompass the material and the immaterial, abstract notions as well as concrete practice, so much so that the term ‘culture’ seems to have become a catch-all...

  7. Taiwan and Vietnam

    • Chapter 7 ‘Amis Hip-Hop’: The Bodily Expressions of Contemporary Young Amis in Taiwan
      (pp. 151-179)
      Futuru C.L. Tsai

      In this chapter, I employ hip-hop as a metaphor and model in order to interpret the bodily expressions of Amis young men in A’tolan village, eastern Taiwan.¹ I argue first that the way mainstream Taiwanese people and some scholars misinterpret contemporary Amis dances as representing a loss of ‘cultural traditions’ is based on an imaginary of ‘ nature’, of the ‘pure’, ‘simple’ and ‘marginal’ bodies of indigenous people. Secondly, however, the bodily expressions of Amis young men represent a complicated social and cultural context, within which they create an alternative style and form of ‘hip-hop’.

      Public stereotypes regarding indigenous peoples...

    • Chapter 8 Contesting Memory: The Shifting Power of Narration in Contemporary Paiwan Contexts
      (pp. 180-196)
      Li-Ju Hong

      When I began my fieldwork in a Paiwan village in southern Taiwan several years ago, I was greatly intrigued by the lack of correspondence between various historical documents and local oral history. It is hardly surprising to anthropologists to find written text and social history in contention with one another. It becomes more interesting, however, when they are intertwined with ‘social reality’, that is, with what is presently happening around us in a village.

      Rightly or wrongly, while researchers often attempt to draw a line between a historian’s or an anthropologist’s own written texts and the lives of those in...

    • Chapter 9 Ethnicity as Strategy: Taiwan State Policies and the Thao
      (pp. 197-208)
      Yayoi Mitsuda

      Studies of ethnicity in multi-ethnic societies have been one of the central issues in anthropology and sociology since the 1960s. This has stimulated studies of indigenous people in Taiwan, which have been popular both academically and politically.

      The Thao were officially recognized as a discrete indigenous group in September 2001. Before then they were regarded as being part of the Tsou, another indigenous group in central Taiwan. The Taiwanese government had classified indigenous populations into nine groups, so the ‘newly’ recognized Thao people became the tenth. This was a welcome event for the Thao, and it also represented an important...

    • Chapter 10 On the ‘Third Morning’: The Continuity of Life from Past to Present among the Nung of Northern Vietnam
      (pp. 209-224)
      N. Jenny Hsu

      This chapter describes thesham-ne(literally ‘third morning’) rite, a ritual observance of the Nung people celebrating the birth of a couple’s newly born first child. This observance is ideally held on the third day after the birth, from which the name ‘third morning’ comes, but the exact day may be modified to accommodate people’s work schedules and holidays, which follow the state calendar. Nevertheless, indispensable aspects of this ritual, such as who brings what and who hangs up thevawhere, have remained constant, generation after generation. I argue that this practice, carried on for at least a hundred...

  8. Afterword Performance as a Mechanism for Social Change
    (pp. 225-240)
    James Wilkerson

    Comparisons of the ethnographic findings of the chapters in this volume that relate directly to the relationship between community-level social institutions, performance and social change suggest ways in which the volume speaks to more general issues of social change in East Asia. The notion of performance is key to this argument. In this respect, three formal features of performance stand out as especially important. In this concluding chapter, I shall first discuss these features in general terms, then show how they apply to each of the chapters in this volume, and finally draw some comparisons and contrasts between the various...

  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 241-244)
  10. Index
    (pp. 245-250)